New & NowFood52 Life

Jam is a Liquid (& Other Fun Things to Keep in Mind When Traveling with Food)

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What you need to know about packing food souvenirs in your carry-on luggage—so you won't end up throwing away $45-worth of jam at airport security.

I once found a good deal on Peanut Butter & Co.'s Cinnamon Raisin Swirl peanut butter in Chicago and packed it in my carry-on to take back to the East Coast. At airport security, a T.S.A. officer confiscated the offending jar (but not before asking me where I had found something that looked so delicious) as tears collected in my eyes, imagining all those peanut butter-and-bananas that would not be. 

It was then that I learned that "creamy dips and spreads (like cheeses, peanut butter, etc.)" are not permitted through the T.S.A. checkpoint.

Lest the same thing happen to you, here's a reminder of what food souvenirs you should skip out on, stow in your checked baggage (taking note, if you're traveling internationally, of what might not make it through customs), or ship home ahead of time. (Keep in mind that if your food is under 3.4 ounces, it's permissable.) We're including our staff's own airport security sob stories, too—because we've all been there. 

1. Creamy dips and spreads, including peanut butter, mayonnaise, and soft cheeses (firm cheese are okay—bring on the cheddar!).

2. Jams, jellies (this includes honey), maple syrup, oil, and vinegar.

  • Haley had to give up a jar of honey in the Savannah airport.
  • Leslie said goodbye to five bottles of Guatemalan rum (but she snuck one in her coat).
  • And as for Kenzi? "I always forget that jam counts as a liquid. (Any chemistry majors? Does it really? The feistiness in me always wants to contend!) So, when I stashed two jars of (very expensive) Blackberry Farm jam to bring back for the office, the woman in the Knoxville airport had to throw them in the trash. I told her to wait until I could turn away."


3. Alcohol, like wine, liquor, and beer.

  • Rachel's story involves her dad and a medical emergency (drama!): "He was on a flight from France to New York that had a connection in Boston. There was a medical emergency (I think a flight attendant twisted his ankle) and because my dad's a doctor, he helped out. They gave him a bottle of wine as a thank you, but then they took it away when he got to customs in New York."
  • Victoria was stopped for Smirnoff: "My friends and I still like to 'ice' each other every Fourth of July because we still think it's 2010. A few years ago, we snuck one Smirnoff in my friends carry-on and T.S.A. was not happy. I have an amazing photo of the T.S.A. agent holding up the Smirnoff and my friend's shocked face."

More: Don't worry—this carry-on cocktail kit is designed to make it through security.


4. Salsa, salad dressing, sauces (including cranberry sauce and hot sauce).

5. Yogurt, pudding, and custard.

6. "You can bring pies and cakes through the security checkpoint, but they are subject to additional screening."

7. Wrapped gifts may have to be opened.


8. And remember, sharp objects—meat cleavers, knives, razor-like blades, and ice picks all included—are not permitted.

  • Amanda once dashed from a photo shoot to the airport, forgetting that she had this prop in her purse. "Not easy to explain, especially when there was no cheese to go with it," she says.

So what's the best solution if you're in line at airport security and realize that your souvenir won't make it past the checkpoint? Eat it—fast. 

  • Ali says: "I almost had to give up mangoes at an airport in Hawaii, so I decided to sit on the curb and eat all of them instead."
  • And Leslie chimes in: "Oh, I did that once with a bunch of friends with a vodka bottle when we were leaving Russia. Kind of like mangoes, but way, way worse."
  • Or, make like Bridget's mom, who "used to stuff blood sausage and kelp from Ireland (which she chewed like gum...) into her nylons to get past customs." 

What souvenirs have you lost in the name of flight safety? Please share with us in the comments below!

Tags: Travel, Advice