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Bringing food through airport security? Why TSA is screening snacks

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Passengers load their items into bins to be scanned as they pass through security at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in Fort Lauderdale. AP photo Passengers load their items into bins to be scanned as they pass through security at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in Fort Lauderdale. AP photo
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With the prices of airport food soaring — and most airlines becoming increasingly stingy with their onboard food offerings — packing a snack when flying is almost a must these days.

But according to guidelines from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), you should now be prepared to take that snack out of your bag so an agent can get a closer look at everything you've got.

Over the past year, TSA has been rolling out new screening procedures for all larger electronics, which require travelers to remove items larger than a cell phone from carry-on bags and place them in a bin with nothing on top or below. According to a TSA press release, the new process (which affects items like tablets and e-readers) is designed to improve security measures.

In addition to electronic materials, however, the security agency says that passengers may also be asked to remove other items, including food and powders (not just liquids), from carry-ons because those additional items may clutter bags and obstruct the scanner from getting a better image.

“This is not required, but also helps X-ray operators get a clearer view of the contents of the bag and speeds up the screening process,” TSA said.

Though the procedure is not mandatory, more travelers have been noticing the enhanced security measures recently.

Summer Hull, who writes the Mommy Points family travel blog, reported that she heard agents instructing people to remove snacks for screening in both Houston and Denver.

And many others are claiming they've had their snacks inspected before flying.

The changes don’t impact the type of foods you can carry with you, which include cakes, pies, bread, doughnuts, fruits and vegetables (when flying domestically). Chrissy Teigen even managed to bring a homemade scalloped potato casserole through security!

If you’re not sure if your food item is allowed (lobsters are, by the way, but ice cream is not), search the TSA’s What Can I Bring? list or message them through Facebook or Twitter.

Since removing foods from your carry-on may take additional time if you haven’t planned ahead, Hull recommends packing snacks in a place where they are easy to access in case you need to remove them. “It is much easier to remove one large Ziploc bag where all the snacks are contained than it is to hunt in 14 different pockets for snacks scattered across your luggage,” she advises.

The TSA recommends organizing your bags with the screening process in mind, which they say will help keep lines moving.

So if you've got a giant bag of M&M's, be prepared to take it out of your carry-on luggage, along with those small liquid bottles ... and pretty much everything else.

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