Can I Bring Food on Flights to Canada?

The TSA restricts the amount of liquids that can be carried onboard airlines.
The TSA restricts the amount of liquids that can be carried onboard airlines. (Image: Spencer Platt/Getty Images News/Getty Images)

After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, U.S. airport security came under the purview of the Transportation Security Administration, or TSA. During the years that followed, the TSA adjusted and reviewed its policies, tightening some restrictions and loosening others in response to changing threats. Policies are always subject to change, so check the TSA website for the latest information shortly before your flight. In addition, Canada has tight regulations on the import of food items. Visit the Canadian government’s imports website for up-to-date information.

TSA Food Restrictions

In general, the TSA does not restrict the transportation of hard, solid food items. Unless the food is an unpeeled natural item such as a piece of fruit, it must be wrapped or placed in a container. All food items that you bring to the airport or purchase before you undergo security screening must go through the X-ray machines located at the security checkpoint. Not all foods are treated the same in the eyes of the TSA. Slushy or partially liquid foods such as soup, peanut butter, sauce, jelly, salad dressing and cranberry sauce fall under the TSA’s liquid restrictions. Cakes and pies are acceptable but undergo enhanced security screening. Food and beverages sold after the security checkpoint are allowed on board the plane, and are not subject to additional screening. When you arrive in Canada, you are allowed to carry your food off the plane and into the country, provided it does not exceed maximum allowable quantities. You must declare all food items on the declaration form you present to Customs and Immigration officials at the Canadian airport.

TSA Liquid Restrictions

The TSA’s 3-1-1 rule applies to all liquids except those that are medically required, including foods that fall under the liquid restrictions. The 3-1-1 rule allows travelers to carry liquids in 3.4 ounce containers. You may carry as many containers as you can fit into one quart-sized zip top baggie. One baggie is allowed per person. Breast milk, baby formula and liquid medications are exempt, but you must present them separately at the TSA checkpoint for inspection.

Canada Import Restrictions

Canada sets specific restrictions on food items that are imported into the country. The Canadian government notes on its website that because pest and disease situations change rapidly, policies are subject to change at any time. As of August 2013, travelers were allowed to import up to 20 kilograms per person of prepared meat products such as jerky or sausage and another 20 kilograms of fresh or frozen meats. You must show proof of the country of origin and display a product label that identifies the meat. You are allowed to import 15 packages per person of fresh fruits and vegetables, an equal number of frozen or canned and an equal number of dried. You may also import 20 kilograms per person of dairy products, seafood and meatless baked goods. Infant formula must be sealed and is limited to 20 kilograms per person.

Special Considerations

If you want to carry more liquids or slushy foods to Canada than are allowed in your carry-on bag, pack them carefully in your checked luggage. Choose sealed containers and consider using zip-top baggies for an extra layer of protection. In addition, the TSA allows unlimited quantities of liquids and slushy foods that are purchased in the sterile area of the airport, after the security screening.

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