7 Surprising Things the TSA Won’t Let You Carry Onboard

The peanut butter debate has been decided, but there are other unexpected items that won’t make it through airport security.

Jars of peanut butter on grocery store shelves

Peanut butter isn’t the only item of questionable consistency that the TSA watches out for.

Courtesy of Ty Lim/Shutterstock

After the Great TSA Peanut Butter Debacle of 2023, many travelers were left wondering what other seemingly innocuous items they might have to toss when they put their carry-ons through airport security. The No-Go List isn’t just obvious items regulated by the 3-1-1 rule, like water and juice boxes; it also includes a variety of foods with questionable consistency and items that have nothing to do with food at all. Plus cats. And boa constrictors.

When you’re packing, remember to limit anything liquid-y to 3.4 ounces (100 milliliters) or less and to place those items in a clear, quart-sized plastic bag, one bag per traveler. Think the usuals, like shampoo, toothpaste, and aerosol or roll-on liquid deodorant (solid deodorant isn’t regulated by the 3-1-1 rule).

But here are some surprising items that the TSA prohibits in carry-on luggage.

Peanut butter

The TSA has spoken: In March, the airport-security agency nearly broke the internet when it declared that it considers peanut butter to be a liquid and therefore subject to the 3.4-ounce limit for carry-on bags. Its reasoning: “A liquid has no definite shape and takes a shape dictated by its container.”

As disappointed as PB fans were by this news, the puns have been almost enough to make up for it. Almost. As the TSA’s awesome Instagram reminded travelers recently: “Caught in a jam with more travel questions? Don’t skippy past our friends at AskTSA! You can now get your answers in a jiff through SMS. Simply text “TRAVEL” to AskTSA (275-872), the replies are smooth and never crunchy.”


The fate of frosting is similar to that of its cousin peanut butter, and its doom was decided in Cupcakegate 2012, when a TSA agent in Las Vegas nixed a traveler’s cupcake-in-a-jar. In a blog post complete with a photo comparison of a regular cupcake and a jar version, the TSA backed the agent’s call, arguing that frosting was a gel and therefore fell under the 3.4-ounce rule.

“Unlike a thin layer of icing that resides on the top of most cupcakes, this cupcake had a thick layer of icing inside a jar.” Disbelief ran rampant, and food scientists and chefs commented. In an argument for frosting’s freedom, Alton Brown explained to me at the time that “By definition, icing is not a gel. We get that word from gelatin, which implies coagulated proteins, so [frosting] is not. Technically frosting is a condensed syrup.”

Regardless, TSA has not budged, and in a Scrooge move during the 2022 Christmas season, it reiterated the ban with a Tweet: “Oh snap! Traveling with your gingerbread kit? Solid foods and candy are good to go. If it’s frosting or icing not already on the house, it must follow our liquids rule in carry-on. Items need to be 3.4 oz. or less.” Points for more puns, I guess.

Freezer packs that aren’t frozen

If the freezer packs or bags of ice are solid, you’re good to go. But once that pack is melted or even partially slushy, it’s considered a liquid and is subject to the 3-1-1 rule. So if you’re, say, my mom, and you’re loading ice packs into a cooler of chopped liver to bring to your family for Rosh Hashanah dinner, make sure those packs are good and solid. No word on the chopped liver itself though.

Alcohol over 140 proof

Even if it’s decanted into tiny bottles, any booze over 140 proof (that’s 70 percent alcohol) is banned from carry-on bags. But we have to admit, skipping the Everclear and high-octane Puerto Rican rum on a flight seems like a smart move for a variety of reasons.

Some sports equipment

You can bring your lucky baseball, basketball, or soccer ball into the cabin—even bike chains and bike pumps are allowed. But the TSA draws the line at any sports equipment “that can be used as a bludgeon (such as bats and clubs).” So you’ll have to check golf clubs and baseball bats.

Wet pet food

If it’s too liquid-y, you’re likely to lose your pet’s lunch . . . to the TSA. So bring dry food and snacks if you’re flying with an animal, even if the food is prescription. Need we remind you to travel with pets appropriately, and to review all requirements and forms for service and emotional support animals? Cats love suitcases, so make sure yours didn’t climb inside before heading to the airport. This guy forgot.


Some people will find this an obvious prohibition, but many (many) many people still bring ammunition in their carry-ons. Or worse, actual guns (occasionally even hidden in peanut butter). While some firearms may be allowed in checked luggage (albeit with lots of rules), they are not allowed in the cabin—not even toys, cap guns, or historical replicas. And in case you were wondering, nunchuks, throwing stars (not even Batman’s variety), pocket knives, and saw blades are all prohibited too.

Billie Cohen is executive editor of AFAR. She covers all areas of travel, and has soft spots for nerd travel, maps, intel, history, architecture, art, design, people, dessert, street art, and Oreo flavors around the world. Follow her @billietravels.
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