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Planning to take food or gifts along with you when you travel for the holidays? Here's how to stay off the TSA's naughty list

If you can spill it, spread it, spray it, pump it, or pour it, and it’s larger than 3.4 ounces, then it should go in a checked bag, the TSA says.
Credit: AP
In this Jan. 11, 2019, file photo, passengers wait in line at a Transportation Security Administration checkpoint at the Philadelphia International Airport in Philadelphia.

PENNSYLVANIA, USA — If you're planning to take along food or gifts with you as you board a flight for your holiday travel, the Transportation Security Administration has some advice that will help you stay off the agency's Naughty List.

"Before you bring a favorite food to the airport for a Christmas or New Year’s celebration, it’s important to think about how you’re planning to transport it if you are flying to spend the holiday with family or friends," the TSA said Monday in a press release. "Most foods can be carried through a TSA checkpoint, but there are some items that will need to be transported in checked baggage."

The TSA said solid items can go through a checkpoint without any issues. But, the agency said, "if you can spill it, spread it, spray it, pump it or pour it, and it’s larger than 3.4 ounces, then it should go in a checked bag."

Food items often need some additional security screening, so it’s a good idea to remove food items from a carry-on bag and place them in a bin for quicker screening at the checkpoint, the TSA added.

Travelers who are unsure if an item should be packed in a carry-on or checked bag can check the TSA homepage, which has a helpful “What can I bring?” feature. 

This also is the time of year that passengers frequently travel with gifts, the TSA said. The agency recommends packing gifts in gift bags or gift boxes instead of wrapping them because if a gift triggers an alarm, it will need to be opened to resolve the alarm. 

Wrapped gifts that trigger an alarm will need the gift wrap removed, but if the gift is in a bag or a box, it is simple to look at the item to resolve the alarm.

Snow globes, a popular holiday gift, should be packed in a checked bag if the globe of water contains more than 3.4 ounces of liquid, according to the TSA.

"As a rule of thumb, if the globe is smaller than a tennis ball, it is less than 3.4 ounces and so it is permitted to be carried through a checkpoint," the agency said. "Just pack those larger snow globes in a checked bag."

Here are examples of the most commonly asked questions about which food items are permissible through a checkpoint and which ones need to get packed in checked baggage. It is also important to remember food safety by storing the food properly while traveling to prevent foodborne illness, the TSA said. 

If you need to keep items cold during your trip, ice packs are permissible, but they must be frozen solid and not melted when they go through security screening. 

Additionally, the  U.S. Food and Drug Administration also has recommendations on holiday food safety. 

The U.S. Department of Agriculture also  has tips for handling food safely while traveling

Holiday foods that can be carried through a TSA checkpoint

  • Fruitcake
  • Cookies, cake, pies
  • Chocolates
  • Candy canes
  • Fruit and nut baskets
  • Spices
  • Ham (frozen or cooked)

Holiday foods that should be carefully packed with your checked baggage

  • Egg Nog
  • Champagne, wine, sparkling apple cider
  • Cranberry sauce. (homemade or store-bought) are spreadable, so check them.
  • Preserves, jams and jellies (homemade or store-bought) are spreadable, so best to check them.
  • Maple syrup

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