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Twice in the last six months, when I went through the TSA checkpoint at San Jose airport, the screening agents specifically checked that I didn't have any food in my bags. The first time, I asked the agent about it and he said that there was a new rule as of March(?) 2018 prohibiting any food from being brought through a security checkpoint - including (but not limited to) dry food and processed food like cookies, nuts, granola bars, or so on. The thing is, other people I talk to in other parts of the country have never heard of this rule, I can't find any documentation about it online, and when I flew from another airport in the northeast, they didn't mention anything about food.

So... is there actually a TSA rule against taking food through security? Or if not a general rule, is there something going on that's specific to San Jose?

If I'd only encountered it once, I could dismiss it as a fluke, but I've been told about this twice, from two different agents, several months apart, which makes it harder to dismiss.

  • I flew in and out of San Jose in August and wasn't asked anything like that. – mkennedy Dec 20 '18 at 22:00
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    Sounds like he was just hungry – npst Dec 21 '18 at 0:20
  • Around March 2018, TSA started sometimes (unpredictably) telling people to take food out of their bags so it can be searched separately. That's not the same as prohibiting it entirely, but perhaps the agent was confused about the policy or the message got miscommunicated somehow. The food is still allowed, but might need to be placed in a bin outside of your bag. – Zach Lipton Dec 21 '18 at 1:56
  • @ZachLipton Hm, that sounds pretty relevant. Perhaps your comment could become an answer? – David Z Dec 21 '18 at 19:18
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The TSA "Can I Bring?" tool, in general, says that food is allowed. There are a number of foods that are not allowed, but these are mainly due to the LAG (Liquid, Aerosol, Gel) regulations and thus limited to 100ml.

I fly out of SJC on average about once every 4-6 weeks, and I have never been asked about food at any point, and I always travel with some food in my bag (a few granola bars at a minimum), so it's something that I would remember being asked. I've also never heard it at any other airport, nor have I had any friends/work colleges/etc mention it to me.

SJC airport does frequently use dogs for security (all passengers are made walk past a dog, and then generally get "pre-check like" checking such as going through metal detectors rather than millimeter wave scanners). Whilst it is possible that the food question might have been related to the use of a dog, I've still never been asked it (even when they are using a dog).

UPDATE: Just went through TSA at EWR airport. They asked for food to be taken out of all bags (just like they do for laptops/etc). I asked the staff and they said it's a new policy as they can't always see it clearly. I took a zip-lock bag of biscuits out, but left a number of granola bags in my bags and they didn't say anything about them.

  • Interesting. I guess this is the best information I'm likely to get unless someone shows up with evidence of an actual rule against bringing food. I'll come back and accept an answer in a couple days. FWIW I didn't see any dogs in the security area either of the times I was asked about food. – David Z Dec 20 '18 at 22:43
  • You would have known if they were using a dog (you literally have to walk past it and it's handler - you can't miss it!), so they clearly weren't using one when you were there. I just checked and I've flown out of SJC 6 times since March. – Doc Dec 20 '18 at 22:48
  • Unfortunately, there's also a blanket rule stating that TSA personnel have final discretion over allowing any individual item through the security checkpoint. So if your local TSA officer tells you "no food," as happened to OP, there is little you can do about it even if they are violating policy by doing so. – Kevin Dec 21 '18 at 22:38
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Recently the TSA has been asking for food to be taken out of carry-on bags like electronic devices, and liquids. I mainly travel with prepackaged granola bars or cliff bars. I pulled them out and there wasn't any problems.

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