Although the TSA’s rules on what is allowed in carry-on luggage have been around for a number of years now, there is still some confusion as to what foods we are allowed to bring with us when we travel by airplane.
For example, the Consumerist reports that the following items are specifically prohibited (their emphasis): gravy, salad dressing, oils and vinegars, jams, jellies, soups, creamy dips, wine, liquor and beer, cranberry sauce, salsa, sauces, maple syrup. However, the way I read the TSA’s rules is that these items are allowed in carry-on luggage (my emphasis) provided they are in sealed containers in amounts of 3.4 ounces or less. It’s only if your container of cranberry sauce is larger than 3.4 ounces that you should then either put it in your checked luggage, ship it ahead, or just leave it home.
There are also numerous people reporting instances of certain airports imposing their own more stringent rules. But as often as not, someone else’s experience will directly contradict the first person’s. For example, in this Cruise Critic discussion, someone swears that they have never been allowed to bring sandwiches past security at LAX, and another person says they fly through LAX on a regular basis and bring sandwiches with them all the time.
It is easy to believe that there is inconsistency in how the regulations carried out. I have seen it myself: I fly with a CPAP machine for my sleep apnea, and most of the time no one bats an eyelash at it. However, two times, once in Tampa and once in Frankfurt, security officials wanted to test it for explosive residue and send it through the x-ray machine by itself. That was fine with me: double-checking the CPAP did not inconvenience me in any way. However, if airports are routinely imposing their own rules regarding food, this needs to be reported, because that could make things very difficult for people like me.
I say this because, for me, bringing my own food on the plane is crucial. I have not found the airline yet that can consistently and predictably provide me with dairy free food, so on most occasions I end up eating what I bring with me. Now that I am sure that wrapped sandwiches and salads and so forth are allowed, if I plan ahead, I will be able to save myself the expense of buying food in the airport. Next time I fly, I may even bring some peanut butter and jam with me (less than 3 ounces, of course). Oh, and some bread in a Ziploc.