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TSA screeners may ask you to remove snacks from your carry-on bag. So be ready

TSA screeners may ask you to remove snacks from your carry-on bag. So be ready
TSA agents may ask travelers to remove food snacks from their carry-on bags to be able to get a better look at what's inside. (Brynn Anderson / Associated Press)

TSA screening requires travelers to remove their laptops and other electronic equipment as well as shoes, jackets and belts during airport screening. But food snacks too? Apparently.

Some travelers, including New York Times’ reporter Shivani Vora, said they have experienced or witnessed people being asked to remove their snack foods during screening, which slows down the lines.

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Vora wrote: “I travel with an extensive amount of food: Nuts, crackers, instant coffee packets, powdered nondairy creamer and dried fruit is the just the start of a long list. Rifling through my two carry-ons to find every last morsel took me more than five minutes, and after the initial screening, my bin was pulled aside so that a T.S.A. officer could examine its contents by hand. The officer then put the bin through for a secondary screening; all told, I was held up an additional 15 minutes.”

Vora’s story said a TSA agent said the policy was implemented about a year ago.

TSA spokeswoman Lorie Dankers said in an email there is not a policy or requirement that travelers remove food from their carry-on bags. However, fliers may be asked to comply.

“Over the past year, TSA began requiring passengers to remove electronics larger than a cellphone from their carry-on luggage and place them in a bin with nothing below or on top of them,” Dankers wrote. “… Passengers may from time to time also be asked to remove other items from their carry-on bag to help the X-ray operators get a clear view of the contents of the bag.”

Those items could include your sandwich, potato chip bag or protein bars. But don't be too eager or you may wind up holding up the line by removing your food when it’s not necessary.

What’s a traveler to do? “I recommend listening to the TSA officer stationed at the front of the X-ray tunnel for specific instructions,” Dankers said.

And maybe keeping all your food items in one place is a good idea if you are asked to remove them.

Remember too that creamy treats such as yogurt and hummus are allowed but only if it’s 3.4 ounces or less (just like the standard liquids rule). Check out the complete list of allowable carry-on foods at the TSA’s online “What Can I Bring?” page.

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