TSA says a little bit of gravy okay to take on a plane; a grenade is not

One of the greatest byproducts of having kids is that the grandparents visit us during the holidays. Traveling around Thanksgiving and Christmas can be a nightmare so I’m glad we’re not navigating airport gates and TSA security screening today with the millions of other modern-day pilgrims. If we were, I wouldn’t be taking food. According to TSA, food complicates the screening process.

When it comes to bringing items through checkpoints, we’ve seen just about everything. Traveling with food or gifts is an even bigger challenge. Everyone has favorite foods from home that they want to bring to holiday dinners, or items from their destination that they want to bring back home.

Not sure about what you can and can’t bring through the checkpoint? Here’s a sample list of liquid, aerosol and gel items that you should put in your checked bag, ship ahead, or leave at home if they are above the permitted 3.4 oz.

   * Cranberry sauce
   * Creamy dips and spreads (cheeses, peanut butter, etc.)
   * Gift baskets with food items (salsa, jams and salad dressings)
   * Gravy
   * Jams
   * Jellies
   * Lotions
   * Maple syrup
   * Oils and vinegars
   * Salad dressing
   * Salsa
   * Sauces
   * Snowglobes
   * Soups
   * Wine, liquor and beer
You can bring pies and cakes through the security checkpoint, but please be advised that they are subject to additional screening.

So are grenades, as Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips found out in Oklahoma City.

Post thanksgiving gravy, some creamy dips, or salsa aren’t the best things to transport without refrigeration, less than 3.4oz or not. Gravy has been linked to lots and lots of outbreaks, particularly those associated with Clostridium perfringens. Julian Grass, MPH, a surveillance epidemiologist at the CDC Enteric Diseases Epidemiology Branch, and colleagues presented a summary of C. perfringens outbreaks at International Conference on Emerging Infectious Diseases in March 2012.

C. perfringens outbreaks are often the result of improperly cooled food or food held at room temperature for extended periods.

Grass was cited as saying, “We thought it was particularly interesting that outbreaks peak during the holiday season, when people tend to gather in large groups to eat foods such as roasts, gravies, and poultry that are cooked in large batches or prepared ahead of serving.”

Grass told Medscape Medical News, “Our finding that meats are by far the most common vehicle of C. perfringens outbreaks speaks to the need for proper cooking, cooling, and hot holding of these foods.”

Pretty hard to properly hot- or cold-hold gravy during airplane travel. Jelly should be okay.

She Don’t Use Jelly from Slow•Nerve•Action on Vimeo.

This entry was posted in Food Safety Culture, Other Microorganisms and tagged , , , by Ben Chapman. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ben Chapman

Dr. Ben Chapman is a professor and food safety extension specialist at North Carolina State University. As a teenager, a Saturday afternoon viewing of the classic cable movie, Outbreak, sparked his interest in pathogens and public health. With the goal of less foodborne illness, his group designs, implements, and evaluates food safety strategies, messages, and media from farm-to-fork. Through reality-based research, Chapman investigates behaviors and creates interventions aimed at amateur and professional food handlers, managers, and organizational decision-makers; the gate keepers of safe food. Ben co-hosts a biweekly podcast called Food Safety Talk and tries to further engage folks online through Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and, maybe not surprisingly, Pinterest. Follow on Twitter @benjaminchapman.