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TSA Security Measures Could Cause an Allergic Reaction

TSA Security Measures Could Cause an Allergic Reaction
Jennifer Billock

The Transportation Security Administration is rolling out new security measures for screening food – which might be a problem for people with food allergies.

Next time you’re traveling with a lot of snacks, be prepared – you may need to go through some extra security screening. As part of the Transportation Security Administration’s new, stricter screening rules, carry-on foods may need to go in their own bins. The measure has already gone into effect in airports like Orlando, where a woman from Arkansas told a travel agent that TSA was swabbing everything.

“When I went to Orlando from Memphis, I was pulled over for additional screening and was told it was [because] I had lots of snacks in my bag,” she said on a Facebook post reported by Allergic Living. “They swabbed every single snack.”

This poses a problem, though, for those with food allergies worried about cross-contamination. The bins are communal, so you don’t know what food has been in there already that might contain an allergen. And for TSA agents searching through bags or examining the food, they may have some sort of food allergen on their gloves from a previous traveler.

Sari Koshetz, a spokesperson for the southeast region of the TSA, gave Allergic Living some hints for how travelers can ensure no cross-contamination happens: Put all the allergy-safe food in clear, tightly sealed containers or baggies; Ask an officer going through your items to put on clean gloves; Point out liquids with medical purposes that exceed the volume limit for carry-ons so that TSA agents can scan them without opening them. It’s also a good idea, Allergic Living says, to carry a note from your doctor explaining your allergies and the safe foods (and possibly an EpiPen) you need to carry. Travelers should also consider joining TSA PreCheck, where the stronger security measures do not apply.

[Photo: Shutterstock]

View Comments (6)


  1. Boggie Dog

    October 21, 2017 at 7:15 am

    If a TSA screener is going to touch you or your gear demand that the screener put on fresh, clean gloves.

  2. 1StRanger

    October 23, 2017 at 6:45 am

    The suggestions written could be helpful, but be prepared for stupid and power-enjoying TSA agents.

    I’ve seen the following situation at the security check @DEN: A family traveling with an infant (~1-y.o.) and had some 8 different baby food items. The TSA agent first very negatively commented that the parents had too many infant food packages for only 3-hour flight.
    (As if you get home right of the plane, or you can buy baby foods at any fast-food joint after deplaning. And the flights never get delayed. And babies always eat the first food they are given.)
    Then he said: “Since you have so much food, you are not allowed to have this water bottle (which he had previously allowed).”

    I wouldn’t be surprised if the same TSA agent would be judging that your allergy is not severe enough… (“You will not die from it, you will just have rush and fever, so, it is not a problem… “)

  3. kthomas

    October 24, 2017 at 2:26 am

    Could we waste any more time on ridiculous security theater?

  4. Pdg

    October 24, 2017 at 7:53 am

    I have Global Entry and TSA Pre-Check, yet had my little bag of protein bars pulled out while going through the Phoenix airport months ago. The agent was sort of a jerk and suggested I should know better if I don’t want to be slowed down. I politely asked where I would have seen a sign informing me, a “known traveler” who travels frequently about this change. He was not pleased with my inquiry (because there was no sign, nothing on the TSA website and no legal reason this man should have been pawing through my food). I carry low-carb protein bars because I am often in dining situations on trips where the amount sugar/flour/rice would put my blood sugar on a spike and then crash. My opinion? The government is not making us safer by judging our food choices or by touching our consumables. What they are doing it opening themselves up to lawsuits… which the taxpayers get to then pay. This is a royally stupid policy and they need to add it to the list of things the Trump administration axes as an invasive regulatory burden on citizens with little to know value to the people.

  5. BC Shelby

    October 24, 2017 at 9:56 am

    …if you have the time, take the train. Amtrak allows and even encourages budget minded passengers to bring snacks and soft drinks on board

    …and no TSA.

  6. bortain

    October 24, 2017 at 11:15 am

    This happened to us at DFW. My wife and I travel abroad once or twice a year and bring back candies and snacks from the places we visit to enjoy until they are gone. At DFW, we had to re-clear security after customs. We must have had a couple dozen items and they swabbed every last one. Even more stupid, they swabbed an engraved crystal milestone award we got from Royal Caribbean that you can see completely through. I had separated the award from my luggage because crystal shows up solid black on the x-ray and I knew they would want to see what it was. If they can’t tell a clear block of engraved crystal from explosives, they need to find another job!

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