Traveling in and around the U.S. has changed a lot in the last two decades. Especially after 9/11, when the government created the TSA (Transportation Security Administration) and it became even more restrictive in 2006, when the liquid rule and shoe removal requirement came into effect. RELATED: 10 Airport Security Hacks Every Traveler Should Know

According to NPR, in August 2006, “British authorities disrupted a terrorist plot to detonate liquid explosives on board 10 commercial aircrafts bound from London to various cities in the U.S. and Canada. U.K. prosecutors alleged the would-be bombers prepared to disguise the explosives as soft drinks in 500-milliliter branded plastic bottles. As a result, the TSA banned all liquids, gels and aerosols from passenger carry-on luggage.”

I just happened to be in London’s Gatwick Airport that morning flying to Sardinia. Here’s my blog post from August 2006 and here’s an extract from that story about the experience:

“I was in London’s Gatwick airport when British authorities announced they had uncovered a major terrorist plot to blow up planes. U.K. and U.S. governments had raised security alerts to their highest levels, and implemented new security rules. Unfortunately, I had an 8 a.m. flight that very morning. When I arrived at easyJet’s check-in area at 6:15 a.m. I had no idea — nor did anyone else — what was going on. There was complete chaos, and for the first hour, I thought it was just their lack of organization. It took a while before I heard some of the news, and saw that the rest of the Gatwick airport was even more of a mess. It was totally packed. You couldn’t even walk. I have never seen a place so crowded.”

Keep in mind that back then, information wasn’t as readily available as it is now, as people didn’t have smart phones or social media. I had a Blackberry, international rates were crazy expensive and with the time difference, all my friends in the US were sleeping. I was afraid to get out of line to find out what the problem was and didn’t want to chance losing my place.

“I waited in line to check in for 4 1/2 hours. I moved just a few feet the first two hours. EasyJet’s service director did a great job informing his 2,500-plus passengers waiting patiently to travel. Everyone was very well behaved. I was lucky, because my flight got out (at 1:15pm). Most that were scheduled to depart just 20 minutes after mine were either canceled or delayed substantially. Airport agents handed out see-through plastic bags, so passengers could carry on the few personal items they were allowed (wallet, medicine, passports and glasses). I had to check — for the first time ever — my computer, cameras, phone, and all the other stuff I treat as a mega-carat diamond ring. Every passenger –even toddlers — were patted down thoroughly. Kudos to Scotland Yard for preventing a major tragedy. One final note: I am not changing my travel plans, and neither should you. I am even flying home via London next week. Just pack smart, arrive early — and bring patience.”

Fortunately, these days almost everyone does have a smart phone and a social media account so information gets out almost immediately. If you want answers these days, you don’t have to wait or go to a library.

I wrote a tip last week after my sister asked me if she could bring a plant onto the plane. I told her she could but that she should ask the TSA directly because it’s always best to get your information straight from the horse’s mouth. The TSA does an excellent job responding to questions via Twitter between the hours of 8am and 6pm ET and their handle is @AskTSA.

As I wrote in the blog post, I tweeted the question to @AskTSA at 9:38am PT (12:38pm ET): @AskTSA Hi! My sister wants to know if she can bring an Orchid plant through the security checkpoint? She’s flying domestically. Four minutes later at 10:42am PT (1:42pm ET) they responded with: “@johnnyjet 1: On flights within or departing the U.S. mainland, plants are generally allowed through the security checkpoint. The airlines regulate the size and number of items each traveler is allowed to bring on the plane.”

Don’t fret if you’re not on Twitter because you can also ask questions by contacting TSA via FB MessengerApple Messages and Text “Travel” to AskTSA (275-872).

Thanks to the TSA’s Twitter handle, they made national headlines this week after tweeting: “You may not be nuts about it, but TSA considers your PB a liquid. In carry-on, it needs to be 3.4oz or less. Make sure all your travel-sized liquids fit in one quart-sized bag.”

I think it’s debatable whether peanut butter actually fits the definition of a liquid but all that matters is that’s what the TSA’s policy is. It’s kind of like arguing with a flight attendant or a pilot. Pilots almost always back their flight attendants and pilots have the final word. So even if you’re right about something but put up a stink, you will most likely be kicked off the plane and possibly be arrested.

A few days later, the TSA tweeted something similar about creamy sauces. “Traveling with your favorite chips and dip? You don’t want it to become all chips and no dip. So be sure your creamy sauces are 3.4oz or less in carry-on. In queso you’re wondering, all your travel-size liquids need to fit in a single quart-size bag.”

So now you know the rule about peanut butter and creamy sauces. But keep in mind that not all TSA officers are the same and some don’t know the rules. Things could go in your favor but most of the time it will be the other way around. If you know the TSA rule, for example bringing baby formula or breast milk and the officer says sorry you can’t have more than 3.4 ounces, then politely ask to speak to a supervisor. This has happened to me and my wife several times including once in Seattle when they called the explosives unit on us (here’s that story).

According to the TSA website: Peanut butter is allowed in carry on bags as long as it’s less than or equal to 3.4oz/100 ml. You are also allowed to pack whole containers of it in your checked bags. You can also bring PB sandwiches through the security checkpoints.


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3 Comments On "TSA's Final Answer About Whether Peanut Butter and Creamy Sauces are Considered Liquids"
  1. BigIsland|

    Who carries jars of PB. When I first saw your article, I thought they were banning peanut butter sandwiches. Looks like PB spread on sandwiches is still ok.

  2. Robert|

    I bought a pack of WHolly Guacamole at the Kauai Costco back in 2007. They come in 3 or 4 containers and we had two left over to take back to Arizona. Even though they were frozen hard as a brick, the TSA agent told me I couldn’t take them on my carry-on (which is all I had). The funny part was she said “You can always eat them before you board”. I dropped them on the floor where they clattered like bricks. Yeah, OK, how long is the delay exactly?

  3. john a hartigan|

    3.4oz….. I put like 10 times that on my sandwich alone :) Thanks Jonny for all the awesome travel news and tips !

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