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Carry on Advice | Prohibited Items | Fear of Flying
Baggage Advice | Top 10 baggage tips

05 March 2010

Question of the day - Can I take peanut butter in my carry on?

Sometimes at, we get interesting questions about what the TSA allows in carry on baggage. Marie wrote in about whether she could carry an unusual combination, containers of peanut butter and tuna in the cabin in her carry on bag.

While I normally have a checked bag with “peanut butter in a jar” and “canned tuna”, on my upcoming trip to Jamaica, I am going overnight and plan to take a carry on. Can I take the “peanut butter in a jar” and “canned tuna” in my overnight carry-on luggage? These are the items my mom likes when I visit. Your response will be most appreciated. Thanks in advance


Thank you for taking the time to contact me. I'm not sure about the rules on peanut butter, but it will likely be considered a liquid or gel, and not be allowed in the passenger cabin if the container is larger than 100 ml (3.4 oz). I'm assuming that your peanut butter container will be larger than this, so prepare to put it in checked baggage or to pack it in several smaller containers.

The can of tuna should not be a problem, but here is where there may be a gray area. Canned goods are not on TSA's list of prohibited items, but if the tuna can is greater than 3.4 oz capacity, and a TSA agent believes it contains a liquid, paste, or gel, then it is possible that the can will be confiscated.

I know it seems a bit odd that a TSA screener would think this way, but they do have wide latitude when it comes to allowing something through. My suggestion is to make sure that the label is on the tuna can.

I do hope that this is helpful. You may want to review, which has an overview of what is allowed and not allowed on an aircraft.

Flashback: Security Screening Before TSA
Before 9/11, airport screening was largely done by private contractors, and although baggage was not as thoroughly screened as they are now, carry on bags were typically x-rayed. After a visit with my parents, my mother sent me off with a bundle of her famous homemade enchiladas, which she froze and wrapped in aluminum foil.

Going though security, the security staff clearly saw a large, opaque, and roughly rectangular object in my bag, and they had a look of concern on their faces. Were this to happen today, I'd likely be hustled off to the side for some extra scrutiny. However, it was a different time and place (the place being Texas) and all I had to do was explain that it was my mother's frozen enchiladas, and their frowns turned to smiles as they waved me through.

Enchiladas photo: Will Merydith