TSA may ask you to unpack your snacks to help unclutter your carry-on bag

FILE - In this Nov. 21, 2014 file photo, a TSA agent checks a bag at a security checkpoint area at M
A Transportation Security Administration agent checks a bag at Midway International Airport in Chicago.
(Nam Y. Huh / Associated Press)

You can blame Richard Colvin Reid, the convicted shoe bomber, for the requirement that you take off your shoes before going through an airport security checkpoint.

And the requirement that you unpack your laptop when going through a checkpoint is due to tips the Transportation Security Administration received about a year ago that terrorists may be trying to hide explosives in computers and other electronic devices.

So why are some TSA officers asking travelers to unpack food from carry-on bags before putting the luggage through an X-ray scanner? No, it is not in response to terrorist attempts to hide explosives in a Twinkie.

TSA officials say there is no new policy about unpacking snacks from a carry-on bag. Instead, it is a response to travelers trying to avoid paying a fee to check luggage by cramming as many belongings as possible into their free carry-on bags.


The request that travelers unpack food is an effort to unclutter your luggage so that the X-ray scanners can get a better view of the items inside your carry-on bags.

“TSA officers may provide additional instruction to remove items from your carry-on bag such as foods, powders, and any materials that can clutter bags and obstruct clear images on the X-ray machine,” said TSA spokesman Matt Leas.

Because of the limits of the X-ray scanners, President Trump recently signed a spending bill that included $64 million to buy and test new airport scanners that rely on computed tomography to check carry-on bags.


The CT technology — long used in hospital settings — lets the scanners view the contents of a bag in three dimensions, allowing security officers to flip the image on the screen 360 degrees, without having to unpack a bag.

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