Air travel can be a pretty stressful experience. There’s so much to think about when you pass through airport security!
As you speed through, unloading your electrical items, keeping an eye on your watch, you don’t want a rogue half-eaten banana to slow you down!
Plus, like many, you may be wanting to avoid the astronomical prices of airplane food, and the poor selection.
Or, you may have specific dietary requirements and allergies and don’t want to have to whip out your epipen.
So, you may be wondering then, what food you can bring on a plane?
Luckily, according to TSA rules, most food WILL make it through the security checkpoint, it's the liquids you need to watch out for!
Read on to discover what food you can bring through security, and which bits should be left at home! Take a deep breath, we’ve got this.
- Can I bring food on a plane?
- What kind of food can you take on a plane?
- What type of food is not allowed on a plane?
- Summary: What you can and cannot bring on a plane
When it comes to bringing food on a plane, regulations vary depending on where you’re storing your tasty morsels and where you’re flying to or from.
All food will pass through the airport’s x-ray machine in the screening process, so nothing will be missed.
But it’s always best to make sure you’re prepared so you don’t have to unpack and throw away any items and avoid getting fined!
If you get caught with a prohibited item, even if you’re let off with a warning, TSA agents will make a note of this on your record. You will then be subject to additional security screenings in the months that follow.
If you are hit with a fine, you could be looking at up to $500 for one unauthorised non-permitted item! These fines typically have to be paid on the spot too, so you can kiss goodbye that holiday money!
While you CAN bring food onto an international flight, each country has different rules and regulations on what food you can bring in. This is especially true for fresh fruit and vegetables.
When on an international flight from the United States to Australia for example, stricter regulations apply. This is to prevent the spread of disease and to stop pests from disrupting sensitive ecosystems.
Therefore, passengers must declare any fresh or frozen fruit and vegetables. Upon touch down a biosecurity officer will assess the situation.
When it comes to an international flight leaving the US, taking fresh fruit and veggies in your carry-on and eating it on the plane is fine.
However, if you want to take them on an international flight back into the US, you will probably face some difficulties. Although this is dependent on the country you are travelling from.
You can check these restrictions by using the US Department of Agriculture’s tool.
Fortunately, you do not have to go hungry on your long flight, because you CAN take food on-board in your carry-on luggage.
The list of food items you can bring with you is pretty extensive and includes:
- Your favourite oatmeal and raisin cookies
- Animal crackers (to keep the kids happy)
- Cooked meats
- Fresh eggs (...although why would you want to?)
- Sandwiches and wraps
- Bread and cheese (to get you in the mood for french cuisine) and,
- Live lobsters. Yes you read that correctly. Just make sure they’re safely stored in a transparent and spill proof container!
Check out our blog for more hints and tips on how to pack your carry-on to make sure you’re up to speed.
The TSA (Transportation Security Administration) tends to be a bit more lenient when it comes to food in checked bags. There isn’t as much rigorous inspection, therefore the list of food you can take on a plane is a bit broader:
- Delicious creamy cheeses like ricotta and mascarpone are A-OKAY
- Your leftover Thanksgiving turkey will finally fly
- The fancy artisan oil and balsamic vinegar collection you bought in Italy
- Your favourite selection of canned goods (peaches, corn, coconut milk)
- Creamy dips and spreads ( and all the peanut butter you can fit in your suitcase)
Sometimes it may feel like a bit of a minefield when checking what food you can take on a plane.
From frozen shrimp to breastmilk for your baby, your brain is probably buzzing with questions.
Don’t worry, we’ll answer them all!
When travelling with your newborn or toddler, you have enough to worry about without stressing if your child will go hungry!
Thankfully, when it comes to baby food the TSA is very considerate, allowing you to bring as much food on-board as your baby needs.
This means that the TSA’s strict regulations on liquids, don’t apply here, whether you want to bring breast milk, formula, juice or food in jars and pouches.
The TSA will even permit ice packs through security in order to preserve these liquids and foods.
In-flight food is usually pretty sad and disappointing. You’ll find yourself served indistinguishable grey sludge, or beige matter that vaguely resembles food.
So it’s a saving grace that you CAN bring your own food on a plane! Some of the food you can take on a plane includes:
- Salads with salad dressing ( as long as it complies with 3-1-1 rules - see below)
- Hummus and pitta
- Curried vegetables
It’s best to pack food that keeps at room temperature and doesn’t negatively impact your fellow passengers.
Any food that is smelly, loud or messy should be kept at home (although this won’t be enforced by TSA, it’s just common decency).
The TSA DOES permit frozen food on flights in both carry-on and checked luggage. However there are some restrictions related to this and airline policies also vary.
If you decide to bring frozen food, you should keep it frozen with ice packs in a cooler bag. Any ice packs that you bring must also be completely frozen when you pass through screening.
But be careful, if they are not frozen, TSA agents have the right to reject it.
Alternatively, passengers can opt for dry ice to keep their frozen food at the right temperature. Most US airlines allow passengers to pack up to 5 pounds of dry ice.
So good news, your grandmother’s delicious signature bolognese will make it back home without spoiling!
Yes and no. There are foods from outside the US which are allowed on a plane, and some of these include:
- Wrapped firm cheese - so don’t worry that Allgauer Emmentaler won’t get left behind!
- Been on a trip to Morocco? Well, that saffron, Ras el Hanout and harissa can come with you and help make some tasty dishes.
- If you’ve brought back some Swiss chocolate from Switzerland, that can come too. However if you’ve picked up a Kinder Egg leave it in Europe, because it’s banned.
There are however some foods from outside the UK that are prohibited. Some of these foods are:
- Uncooked rice, if you are flying from a country that has Khapra beetles (India, Western Africa). These beetles burrow in rice and infect crops.
- Liquid cheese, if it originates from a country known to have foot and mouth disease.
- Horse meat and bush meat. Horse meat requires exact documentation in order to prove it is not infected with diseases like foot and mouth. While bush meat is flat out not allowed due to security concerns.
You’ll be happy to know you can also take packaged food on a plane. However, these items need to be unopened.
If you’re bringing packaged food in your carry-on luggage, TSA officers may ask you to separate these items from the rest of your luggage. This is so that the x-ray machines are not obstructed.
Bearing this in mind, you can bring:
- Hersheys, butterfingers and Reese’s for your non-American friends to try
- Snacking bread
- Cookie bars
- Trail mix
However some foods even when brought in packaging are a little bit risky. This includes yogurt which can explode at high altitudes.
For short flights you may need a little something to keep you going for the duration of the journey. Or, perhaps you’ve experienced one of those frustrating flight delays! So, thank goodness you can bring your own snacks on a plane.
Whether you fancy something healthy, or a little decadent, the TSA allows you to bring the following on-board:
- Granola bars either homemade or bought
- Crisps and popcorn
- Dried fruit
- Fruit and vegetables (although additional screening may be required here)
- Cakes and biscuits
- Protein bars
Check out our blog to discover the best plane snacks to bring on a long flight.
While the TSA list of permitted food you can bring through security is pretty long and inclusive, there is some solid food that won’t make it through airport security:
Ice cream is NOT allowed in your carry-on luggage and will NOT make it through airport security. However it is permitted in your checked luggage, provided it complies with the frozen food rules.
Dried citrus fruits and leaves are NOT allowed through airport security. This is because they may be carrying diseases from nestling fruit flies. YUCK.
Cans will unfortunately NOT make it through airport security. This is because they have a hard time registering through x-ray machines. So, TSA agents cannot determine if they are safe, which makes them a potential security risk.
According to TSA regulations if you want to bring liquids aboard in your carry-on you must adhere to the 3-1-1 liquids rule.
This means, each liquid you wish to take must be transported in a 3.4 ounce container, in a one-quart clear plastic bag, and each passenger may have only one bag.
So that means, yes, you can bring the following, as long as they comply with regulations:
- Cranberry sauce,
- Nutella, and
Rest assured, you can bring alcoholic beverages on a plane to calm your flight nerves. However, once again there are exceptions and regulations that apply.
As with other liquids, when it comes to carry-on luggage, you are permitted to bring bottles of 3.5 ounces (100ml). They must fit into a clear ziplock bag and must be between 24 and 70 ABV.
However on top of this, alcohol must be unopened and in its commercial packaging (mini bottles).
When it comes to checked bags, you are allowed to pack up to 5 litres of alcohol.
But, leave the strong stuff at home, alcohol above 70% ABV (including 95% grain alcohol) is not permitted. Oh, and no moonshine!
For more information on alcohol dos and don’ts head over to the TSA website.
So, to summarise, what foods can you take and which can’t you?
|Length of delay||Allowed||Prohibited|
|Cakes and pies||X||/|
|Fresh fruits and vegetables||X (see restrictions)|
|Horse and bushmeat||X|
|Alcohol above 70% ABV||X|
|Alcohol below 70% ABV||X (see restrictions)|
|Frozen food||X (see restrictions)|
|Liquids||X (see restrictions)|