What Kind of Food and Liquids (consumables) Can You Bring Through Airport Security in the USA in Checked Baggage?

Airport security

What Kind of Food and Liquids (consumables) Can You Bring Through Airport Security in the USA in Checked Baggage?

Food concept

If you are traveling to the USA and you want to bring some food from home you may be surprised to find that you cannot bring the food in through customs!

Many people from around the globe that are headed to the United States want to bring a little comfort from home in the form of their favorite food but the security folks at the airport may wind up confiscating your items!

A lot of people want to bring food into the US because they are afraid they will not be able to find their favorites while traveling. More commonly people will bring something from home for relatives and friends that they are headed to visit.

What seems harmless to you can be viewed as a threat to US security!

Bringing in “contraband” (food and beverages that are prohibited) can result in a fine imposed up to $10000 USD so it definitely pays to know what you can and cannot bring in your checked baggage.

Airport security control

Most travelers do not mean any harm they are just trying to bring in the food that they love but there are some very specific reasons why the ban on certain foods is so tight! This article looks at what type of foods you can pack in your CHECKED baggage, the rules for carryon is a bit different.


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Why do They Confiscate Food?

Can you bring food through the airport security? First of all, it depends on if you are entering the US or traveling from the US to another country. While your favorite fruits, veggies and meats are permitted wherever you are coming from the US is rather picky about what it permits in their country. They confiscate food to protect their own agriculture.

Pests and disease that is native to your country that affects agriculture may not be native to the US and it can easily wipe out crops and affect their agriculture. In the interest of agri security the US bans certain fruits, vegetables and meats from entering the country. All food items banned in USA will not be allowed to go through the security for any reason

As a matter of fact, there are more food items banned In USA from entering the country than there is food that is allowed in the country. It may seem like it is irrational to disallow enough fruit or other food items to make a meal but one pest or even a disease can easily spread and travel and wreak havoc on the food supply.

Even wrapped candy (like meat candies from China) are confiscated. It really does not matter where you are coming from or the type of relationship that the US has with your country your food will be confiscated if it is “prohibited”.

A good example is Avocado’s from Mexico. While the US imports the majority of their Avocado’s from Mexico if you are a traveler and you are bringing Avocado’s in with you from Mexico they will be confiscated unless they are obviously a very small amount (one or two) in their whole form and checked in your luggage.

So if you are asking: “Can you bring food through airport security?”, the answer most likely will be a No. But keep in mind that there are some exceptions.


What Happens to Confiscated Food?

Food and garbage

When you arrive at the security/customs counter, your bag will be searched and if food is found, it will be confiscated and put into a “contraband” bin that contains other confiscated food items.

Once the bin is full it is taken to an area in the airport that has a “grinding table” the food is dumped on this table and shoved into a hole in the middle of the table that houses the grinder that will grind up the food! You can see the process in action right here!

A lot of people are under the impression that the food is kept and consumed or that it is not thrown away and that the security people are just being difficult.

The food stuff REALLY is destroyed and it REALLY is considered a threat to agriculture and livestock. The US has very high standards under the rules of the USDA (US Department of Agriculture) when it comes to food handling.

Many countries do not keep to the same standards so rather than go through lengthy vetting processes just so people can bring in food items, all items that are not permitted are confiscated and destroyed.

What Food Can You Bring to the US?

There are actually quite a few things that you can bring into the US like

Bakery Goods

Bakery goods

cookies, cakes and pastry (both commercial and homemade)


Most cheeses

commercial and homemade types


Condiments like oil

vinegar and other dressings - commercial and homemade as long as it is in a sealed container

Baby formula

Baby formula

Baked goods are permitted as long as they are wrapped. Most all cheeses are permitted as long as it is wrapped securely. Most all condiments in their original containers are permitted. Meat, vegetables and fruit that has not been cooked or prepared is almost never permitted. Ultimately it is left up to the security personnel discretion whether or not you will be permitted to bring certain food items in.

Of course most commercially prepared food that is sealed in the original wrapper will make it through the security check but there are cases when they will not. 

Another deciding factor as to whether a food or liquid product is going to be considered harmless is the quantity. If you have a few bags of snacks in your checked luggage it will likely sail through without a problem (as long as you claim it). 25 bags of stuff may raise eyebrows and cause you to be held up at the gate.

Liquids (Consumable)

There are actually quite a few things that you can bring into the US like

You can check on the site for the types of liquids that you can bring in your checked bag! In your checked bag you can bring:

  • Alcoholic beverages as long as the bottle is sealed and the alcohol content in below 140 proof

  • Gravy’s, jams and jellies

  • Soups and yogurts

In most cases baby formulas are permitted, liquid medicines are permitted as long as they are labeled and sealed.

New “unopened” containers are far more likely to make it through security than bottles and containers that are only partially full or that are not labeled clearly with the contents. Security will much more likely look favorably on the contents if the container is sealed, unsealed containers are far more likely to be confiscated.


According to the US Customs Website

Many prepared foods that are unopened and commercially labeled are admissible (excluding meats and meat products). You may bring bakery items and most cheeses into the United States. As a general rule, condiments, vinegars, oils, packaged spices, honey, coffee, fish, tea, and baby formula are admissible. Because rice can often harbor insects, it is best to avoid bringing it into the United States, particularly if it is in loose burlap packaging. Foods in packaging that appears unsafe or contaminated may be refused entry.

You can check on fruits and vegetables at the APHIS (Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services) to see if you can bring in fruits or vegetables from your country of origin here, but a word to the wise, it is not likely that you will be able to bring in any fruit, vegetables or meat!

Additionally, the US Custom and Border Patrol reminds that

All agriculture items must be declared and are subject to inspection by a CBP Agriculture Specialist at ports of entry to ensure they are free of plant pests and foreign animal diseases. Prohibited or restricted items may include meats, fresh fruits and vegetables, plants, seeds, soil and products made from animal or plant materials.

Airplane and travel concept


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FAQ about bringing food through the airport security

Among all general information people are looking up regarding bringing food through airport security, there are some highly specific questions people are asking over and over again. This is why we have gathered the most common questions regarding this problem and we are giving you straight-forward answers to all of them!

Can you bring food through security at the airport?

Yes, but only certain types of food that are not banned to be taken into the US.

In most cases, you will not be allowed to bring food thru the airport security when traveling to the US.

Can you bring snacks through airport security?

You can only bring certain type of food thru the airport security, like potato chips, pretzels and dried food.

Can I take candy through airport security?

Candy is a broad concept and might describe different types of candy etc, which means there is a good chance that they will be confiscated.

Can you bring fruit through airport security?

Only see firm fruits like apples and oranges can be taken through airport security and only in an amount that is for self-use.

Can you take sealed food through airport security?

Only if the particular food is not banned to entry to USA.

Otherwise, it does not matter if it is sealed or not!

Can I take cheese through airport security?

Most types of cheeses are allowed to be taken through security when entering the US if they are sealed properly.

Can I bring cookies through airport security?

Cookies are one of the snacks that could be allowed to go through airport security, but it depends on what type of cookies they are and how they are packed.

Can I bring tea into the US?

Most types of tea are allowed, but only for personal use, therefore be aware of the amount of tea you are taking through the security.

Your Best Bet

If you absolutely HAVE TO bring some sort of food stuff with you when you travel to the US, you want to make sure that it is permitted before you pack it or it will just be a waste of time and money.

Frankly, the US has plenty of shops and stores that offer a wide range of ethnic type foods where you can easily find foods that are reminiscent of your home country. You can save yourself a lot of aggravation and stress by just leaving the food stuff at home and planning on enjoying your trip.


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