The TSA Is Coming for Your Munchies

You may be asked to remove your chips and granola bars from your bag and put them in a bin.

Potato crisp packet opened with crisps spilling out


If your summer plans include air travel, take note: The snacks you've cleverly stashed in your carry-on could complicate things when you go through security.

The Transportation Security Administration has rolled out new screening procedures in recent months that include the request that travelers remove snacks — along with electronic devices and liquids — from their bags and put them through the scanner in a separate bin.

In March, snack removal incidents began to make news (see here, here and here). At that time, the TSA tweeted, in response to a query about the confusion, "There's no new policy regarding the screening of food. However, removing these items may assist our officers in getting a clearer view of the bag, reducing the number of additional inspections needed." The TSA linked to its official policy, listed here, and you can get more information about which foods are allowed on flights here.

Lately, though, the TSA seems to have ramped up the snack removal, both the Washington Post and the New York Times report.

"The 'recommendation' appears to be gaining steam and moving rapidly into the territory of de-facto protocol, according to travelers who have received snack-related notices from their airlines, and who have been informed by rank-and-file TSA screeners that the snack checks are now standard practice," the Post reported last month.

Mike England, a TSA spokesman, told the Times that the policy, which simply gives officers "the right to ask passengers to remove food if they feel that it's necessary," went into effect last summer and is an effort to help officers gain clarity when bags are overstuffed. "In addition, some food materials look similar to explosives in an X-ray," he told the Times.

But while the TSA seems to be positioning the new snack-removal screening protocol as a convenient time saver, social media reveals that people are not buying that explanation – and not super-psyched about having to haul their snacks out of their bags and put the in a tray for all to see.

"tsa made me take out all of the snacks in my carry on in front of everyone and i've never been so embarrassed. why did i pack so many snacks," howled one snack packer.

"The TSA dude saw my snack stash and tried to snack shame me with a 'how long is it gonna take you to eat all of that??' BOY," sniffed another.

For some, packing snacks is a matter of savings: "I got stopped at TSA for having too many snacks in my backpack and not taking them out but GIRL GOTTA EAT AND IM NOT PAYING FOR YOUR AIRPORT FOOD (*gets bagels on concourse*)," wrote a frugal traveler.

There are concerns about delays and missed flights. And then there's the sanitary factor: "Am I the only one grossed out by putting snacks in the bin where others have put their shoes?" one Twitter user wondered.

No, friend, you definitely are not. Sounds like it would be wise for us all to store our in-flight snacks in a well-sealed clear plastic bag for the foreseeable future.

Photo: iStock

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