Can You Bring Canned Food On A Plane? (TSA Rules For Checked & Carry On Bags)

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In 1865 a steamboat called Bertrand hit a snag in the Missouri River and sank. The passengers and crew all survived but the boat and its cargo of canned food sunk to the bottom of the river.

109 years later they recovered that canned food, cracked it open, and tested it scientifically.

It was still safe to eat!

Will your canned food be recovered from an airplane on the ocean floor more than 100 years from now?

Let’s hope not!

But, anyway, if you want to bring canned food on a plane you’ll need to get it past the TSA first!

This is a deep dive into bringing canned food on planes. It’s not a simple yes or no answer but stick with me and you’ll get the info you need.

TSA Canned Food Rules

The Transportation Security Administration is staffed by those serious-looking dudes at the airport security checkpoint.

They also scan and sometimes search your checked luggage behind the scenes.

If you will be bringing canned food on a plane these are the people you’d need to get it past.

Let’s see what they say about food in cans.

Those special instructions are quite a mouthful!

The good news is you can bring canned foods in checked luggage without restriction. So go ahead and load up your checked bag with whatever canned goods you want. And don’t worry, canned food will not explode in hand luggage or checked bags!

About carry-on luggage…

To paraphrase the TSA, there are some canned foods that are not prohibited in hand luggage but that might not be allowed anyway.

They could require additional screening. To save you bringing your canned food to the airport so an agent can investigate it here’s the deal….

Bringing regular size canned foods in carry-on bags is permitted only if there is no liquid in the can.

Okay, technically you can bring food in a can with liquid if the can is under 3.4 oz and you pack it in your toiletries bag.

But so far as I know nobody is making miniature travel-sized cans of soup. There’s a gap in the market! I bet Campbells could condense that mushroom soup down to a 3.4 oz or less if they really tried!

Anyway, the TSA exists to keep our planes safe. And there are two main things that they think are not safe. The first is weapons and the second is liquids.

So you can get a better feel for the rules I’m going to find many examples of different types of canned food and see how the TSA responds.

Are Any Canned Foods Allowed Through The Checkpoint?

So that’s the rules, basically, regular size canned foods are not allowed in checked bags if there are liquids involved. Solid food in cans with no liquid is permitted.

And as everyone knows… with canned foods there are usually liquids involved.

So what canned food can you actually take on a plane? Which canned foods are considered to be solids and exempt from the 3-1-1 liquids rule?

I set out to get to the bottom of it by checking what’s happening on Twitter.

Aaron wanted to bring a sealed can of tuna fish in his carry-on. As you know tuna fish usually has a small amount of water, brine, or oil in the can.

The TSA said that because of the liquid that it could only be a 3.4 oz tin of tuna.

As Dustin discovered, you need to make the tuna fish sandwich. You can bring one of those!

You could also open your can of tuna, remove the water, and store your tuna in a plastic container but it won’t stay fresh so long if you do that!

I thought that Armour potted meat might be permitted in hand luggage in larger cans but I was wrong.

Because potted meat is spreadable it falls foul the liquids rule. The good news is that Armour sell a 3 oz can that could be packed in your toiletries bag.

Someone called Josh asked about bringing canned soup in his carry-on.

I must say… impressive trolling by the TSA when they said he could bring a 3.4 oz can of soup!

Most canned foods are much larger. There might be a few gourmet cat food cans that are under 3.4 oz. They could go in your toiletries bag if you are willing to forgo shampoo 🙂

If you must bring soup in hand luggage go for powdered soup or transfer soup into travel size bottles and pack it instead of shampoo. You’ll need 4 travel-size containers to bring a 12 oz bowl of soup.

Okay let’s continue. In case you were wondering…

Relax! You can bring smoked sausage on a plane.

And you can even take a raw sausage in your carry-on.

But if your sausage is canned and in tiny little bit of liquid then it’s a no!

The TSA rules can lead to some strange situations…

You can’t bring a regular size can of diced tomatoes in your carry-on.

But you can bring fresh garden tomatoes!

It’s a similar story with canned sweet corn.

Fresh corn is okay but canned corn is banned because of security concerns.

I think whoever drew up these rules must be confusing the jolly green giant with the incredible hulk! Easy mistake to make 🙂

So far no canned food has been allowed to fly in the cabin, but I had high hopes for my next item.

Does the TSA have a spam filter? Can you bring canned spam in carry on luggage?

I was feeling confident since spam isn’t packed in a liquid…

Then this happened.

You’ve got to love that assertiveness from the life coach! They weren’t going to be brushed off so easily.

Listen Tinder generation…

Aspic isn’t what you think it is!

Aspic is the jelly-like substance that you need to remove from your spam if you want to bring it on a plane! You’ll need to take the spam out of the can to do it though so you really can’t bring canned spam on a plane!

Although, to be fair, another member of the TSA social media team said that spam would be okay.

Confusing isn’t it?

And I saw another positive for bringing canned spam on a plane.

I think your chances of bringing spam will depend on how knowledgeable your TSA officer is about SPAM.

If he senses there is a spec of jelly in there it might get confiscated! For everybody’s safety!

Not wanting to be defeated I kept searching…

Finally I found a winner!

If you are bringing “fancy crabmeat” with no liquid inside then you can bring it on a plane in your carry-on luggage!

Hurrah for that! Finally something for those future scientists to test for edibility!

The Verdict

Canned food in fine to pack in your checked bag.

Tiny 3.4 oz canned food, the type that fairies eat, can be packed in your hand luggage. You’ll just need to put it in your quart-size bag along with your toiletries.

Most canned foods have some liquids in the can and this means that the TSA enforces the liquids rule.

The bottom line is 9 times out of 10 if you want to bring food on a plane then canned food isn’t a great option.

If you are going to consume the food soon you could open the can, drain it, and pack the food in a plastic container. You’ll have better chance with that, or with fresh food.

You could open the can, drain the liquids, then can it again with your own canning machine! Then it would be legit but since security couldn’t see inside your can you’d be unable to prove it.

Or you could attempt to freeze the food you want to bring. Like this lady, who found a way to get her baked beans past security by freezing them!

That’s it! I won’t be able to sleep tonight from wondering why she needed those baked beans so badly!

Have a good trip! And remember, they probably have stores where you are going!

Also, and I’m being a little naughty saying this, if you packed a can of something in your carry-on and it was confiscated would it be the end of the world? You might get away with it!

I mean don’t take soup, that would be crazy! But you know… “sorry officer I didn’t realize” is the phrase you want should you decide to gamble.

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