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I love canned food, specially tuna and sardines and I like to bring them from wherever I go (if the country has good conserves). It's a very nice "recuerdo" and experience (while it lasts). Can I bring these in hand luggage? Often these come in oil, olive oil, water or tomato sauce therefore my question. Anyone has experience with these?

Canned sardines

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Liquids and paste-like substances are prohibited, meaning that anything moist or canned in oil, brine, fruit juice, syrup, water or any other liquid will be prohibited too.

  • Thanks! I wouldn't call either sardines, tuna a paste. I don't know what you have in mind but most of the canned food I know is not a paste. Would that make a difference? – nsn Jun 8 '15 at 16:22
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    The sardines are in oil or water and that is the forbidden item. When the container is over 100 ml, or 3.4 OZ you can not bring it in hand luggage, you are allowed to transport it in your checked luggage. – Willeke Jun 8 '15 at 17:45
  • This answer is correct. I've personally had some small cans of delicious Baltic sprats in oil confiscated in the EU, because terrorism(tm). – jpatokal Jun 8 '15 at 22:53
  • @nsn The only dry, canned food I can think of at the moment is milk powder, which I guess is not what you want to bring in your hand luggage. I have never seen tuna or sardines canned in anything else but water, brine or oil. – Tor-Einar Jarnbjo Jun 9 '15 at 1:55
  • I dont disagree, I am just saying that itś not a paste. You may confusing it with Pâté. – nsn Jun 9 '15 at 7:28
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Liquid in the Can Makes the Whole Can Liquid

The issue with canned food is not the food itself but rather the liquid suspension in which it is preserved - brine, oil, sauce, water, etc. Because the can contains some liquid, the whole item will understandably be treated as a liquid container. Your canned food will therefore be subject to the 100ml rule (3-1-1 for the US). This is to say that in theory, you should be able to carry canned food tins of ≤ 100ml volume in your carry on.

A Matter of Interpretation

Having said this, the airport-security liquid rule is often subject to interpretation. More importantly, the interpretation the passenger gives is always powerless against the interpretation given by the security personnel. Hence why it makes sense to search for what the individual security agencies specify on their policies regarding liquids.

European Regulations as Interpreted by the UK Authorities

You mention travelling to Europe, hence here is the UK governmental page on liquid allowance in hand luggage, which is arguably one of the most complete and easy to search source of information available in Europe. It explicitly mentions food, but not canned food:

There are restrictions on the amount of liquids you can take in your hand luggage. If possible, pack liquids in your hold baggage (luggage that you check in).

Liquids include:

  • all drinks, including water
  • liquid or semi-liquid foods, eg soup, jam, honey and syrups

British Airways seems to parrot the exact same information on their dedicated webpage. This is somewhat inconclusive as it leaves space for interpretation, without providing a definite yes-no answer as to canned food specifically.

TSA to the Rescue

Obviously the TSA does not define the rules for European airports. Nevertheless its website is arguably one of the most complete sources of information out there regarding airport security matters. Moreover it is safe to assume that, when is comes to global policies such as the liquid rule, international airport security agencies should abide by similar rules. Searching for canned food using the TSA prohibited items search tool yields the following result:

TSA canned food

This is in my opinion a thinly veiled way of saying that the canned food is likely to be confiscated, since the doubtful TSA agent is always right, and that you should therefore place it in your checked-in luggage.

Better Safe than Thrown Away

Personally I would err on the safe side and pack canned food in my checked-in luggage. On one hand the liquids rule is likely to apply to them, regardless of the effective net content of liquid/gel preserve. On the other hand, hard metal cans and containers may be considered as harmful items, let alone weapons, by over-zealous security agents, inevitably guaranteeing them to be thrown in the thrash. Why waste a perfectly good can of gourmet sardines?

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