Travel News

New TSA Rule On Snacks and Food at Checkpoints – And Handled Poorly

TSA precheck
Written by Charlie

It appears that a new TSA rule is rolling out across the nation and it affects your snack food in your carryon. You will not hear of this from the TSA but it is in effect and being handled poorly at major airports.

This is one of those things that really makes US travelers shake their heads about the “line of defense” at airports. I am normally somewhat leniant when security policies are initated for airline travel because I recognize that there are things that the government and intelligence agencies are aware of that we do not. But, sometimes, the security measures are just crazy – and the TSA won’t even own this one.

New TSA Rule on Snacks and Food at Checkpoints

First of all, this is not a TSA rule that you will find on their website and, if you ask them, they will say there is no such rule. However, after going through several airports the last couple of months and talking with TSA agents and other travelers, it certainly is a new TSA rule. It may not have been rolled out systemwide yet but it is a new rule nonetheless.

You can also see this points by Mommy Points regarding this TSA behavior as well.

What Is this Snack and Food TSA Rule?

We first encountered this in Denver in March. The TSA was making everyone in the general line remove their snacks and food products from their carryon bags. If you left any in there, they pulled your bag aside for enhanced screening (someone pawing through the bag) – at a very busy airport in a very busy time of travel. This meant that the waiting line for getting your bag back was at least 30 minutes.

Apparently, this TSA rule on snacks and food is that they must come out of your carry-on bag and put in a bowl or bin before going through the detector. Any bag that is seen with snack food will be pulled aside for their enhanced/secondary screening process. This translates to long waits at major airports.

This does not seem to be in effect for PreCheck lines. But, if you are a TSA PreCheck passenger at major airports on airlines that fly out of gates without a dedicated TSA Pre line, you will still be required to take out your snack foods.

…It Is Handled Poorly

The thing is that this is not a rule that is mentioned on the TSA website or on placards in the TSA area. It is something that is being shouted out by TSA agents in the line. Of course, we all know if we are traveling with a laptop and we can get that out. But, snack foods? Some of those may be buried in bags and it is not that easy to get all of them out.

So, people get to the snaking lines with barely any room and find out as they near the front that their snacks need to come out. Since this is something that most people have not heard of before or read, it has been ignored by many people. Even the people that take the snacks out still may have something they have forgotten about and the bags get pulled aside for more screening.

In fact, not only is this new TSA rule not addressed on their website, this is what TSA has to say about food in carry-on bags:

Yes, you may pack food in your carry-on or checked bag, but remember all food must undergo x-ray screening. Foods that are liquids, gels, or aerosols must comply with the 3-1-1 liquids rule. TSA officers make the final decision on whether certain items are permitted into the secured areas of the airport.

Right, no mention that it must be taken out. I have asked the TSA about this and have been told there is no such rule about removing snacks or food. But, TSA agents around the country are doing this and I have been told by many of them that this is a new TSA rule that will be rolled out throughout the country.

What’s the Point?

I have heard it may have to do with new machines while some agents mentioned that there are ways to hide explosives in snack foods. To that, I would say, where does that kind of thinking end? Could someone hide explosives in books, socks, belts, etc.?

My father used to be a police officer in a courthouse. With that, he often had shifts at the metal detector and had to undergo training for that. He always comments on how things the TSA makes issues about with their scanners are things that any skilled, trained examiner would be able to spot without the little rules TSA agents throw around.

At the end of the day, who knows why they are rolling out this new TSA rule? However, it is definitely something the TSA should own and update for travelers rather than leaving them at the mercy of agents at the airport who may or may not announce such a rule as people are in line – before pulling their bag aside and causing even worse delays.

Featured image Courtesy Arina P Habich, via Shutterstock

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About the author


Charlie has been an avid traveler and runner for many years. He has run in marathons around the world for less than it would cost to travel to the next town - all as a result of collecting and using miles and points. Over the years, he has flown hundreds of thousands of miles and collected millions of miles and points.
Now he uses this experience and knowledge to help others through Running with Miles.


  • Experienced this on a single access checkpoint a month ago. PreCheck granted metal detector instead of scan, but they pulled my bag with 7-8 ClifBars and swabbed each one individually. Granted anyone can do anything, but if I’m vetted for Global Entry, maybe my ClifBars are not good use of resources.

  • Saw this last month. Food *and* paper. Seriously? Paper?

    Was really glad to have PreCheck.

  • I don’t believe this is a snack food thing, I think this only affects the airports in states that have legalized weed. I have not encountered this in any flights I have taken.

  • Bunch of Nazi’s who are in cahoots with HMS and other “past security” overpriced airport food vendors…just like the water bottles.

  • Omaha airport was doing this for the last year. However in the last month or so they stopped requiring it. Also they required precheck to take their snacks out.

    Weed is not legal in Nebraska so SAPs theory is not correct.

  • Happened in Tucson to me this morning. Of course I pissed them off asking to opt out (BTW has everyone just become a lemming and defaults to the scanners now?) and had to remove my ultra dangerous Cactus Candy we were bringing back for my wife’s school kids as it could have been filled with explosives. Of course no one cared when we bought it in PHX – after security – and flew to Tucson a few days earlier! It is all such a complete joke.

  • It DOES apply to PreCheck. I have been yelled at at JFK, CLT, and LAX for keeping granola bars in my bag while going through the PreCheck line and had to wait forever for one of the Thousands Standing Around to inspect my granola bars.

  • Our snack bars created a whole sanfu too. We were flying back from Denver in the beginning of March and they were all worried about our snacks. Had the same issue last week when flying international from LAX Tom Bradley. This is really such a nuisance.

  • My companion didn’t get TSA pre this last weekends trip… was hit by the food snack disaster in line at both LGA & RIC. It was absolutely horrible at RIC I watched from just past security at the line came to a full on stand still. There was a good 5 or more minutes it simply did not move over some kids snacks or something. She had just shoes to be x-rayed but simply couldn’t pass through security.

  • I don’t give a Shit as long as I get on the plane! They are declutteting the bag so that the X-ray imagines are clearer. oh noooooo! Lol

  • I worked for a defense contractor that helped design and build these type of “chemical” scanners. First, they have somewhat severe limitations in what chemicals they can detect, and can be fooled by any food that has approximately the same chemical signature as explosives and toxic chemicals. Second, the reason the TSA changes the “rules” is because the bad guys are watching, and if they see a common pattern, they will exploit that “lapse” and attempt to bring / smuggle the bad stuff on board the aircraft. Your flying days will not end well, just sayin…