Foods you can and can't take on airplanes

Sally-Jayne Wright
by Sally-Jayne Wright  |  15 April 2015  |   13 comments

Don't let airport security nab foods from your hand luggage. Here's what you can take aboard and legally bring back.

Foods you can and can't take on airplanes

A friend and I once flew from Gatwick to Edinburgh with two pork pies and a jar of Dijon mustard in my hand luggage for our on-board lunch. Security at Gatwick took the mustard off us. But we escaped lightly. Every year thousands of tonnes of fancy olive oils, preserves, vinegars and wine are confiscated from people’s hand luggage. Passengers carry them aboard because they’re fragile, but if the contents exceed 100ml, they must be checked in.

The safety rules changed after a bomb scare

The safety rules changed in August 2006 after UK authorities uncovered a plot to make a liquid bomb capable of blowing up a plane. No one was hurt but the risk was taken seriously. A British Airports Authority (BAA) spokesman told me: ‘Food in liquid or paste form is only permitted if it is in containers less than 100ml or 100g and fits within the clear plastic bag. Solid-based food in a sauce, such as curries and stews, is okay in quantities over 100ml, provided the sauce is part of the meal.’ So it’s into the hold with that jar of Marmite for your homesick auntie in Spain.

Passengers are still confused

Passengers remain confused about the rules. Charlotte from Cornwall complained on the Guardian letters page when her clotted cream was confiscated at Exeter airport as she didn’t see it as a liquid. Several readers reported having to surrender Camembert, the kind of food that starts the flight as a solid and ends up, well, not so solid.  Even security officers sometimes have doubts as Jeremy Clarke reported in The Spectator when he had to surrender his clotted cream and only just held on to his cheese.

What about flying home food souvenirs after your holiday?

The rule is: you can bring in most meat, fish, dairy, fruits, honey, spices, healthy herb plants and vegetables from the European Union (EU). Anything from outside the EU is dodgy, especially meat and dairy. The Canary Islands, Liechtenstein, Norway, San Marino and Switzerland all count as the EU for personal food imports but Turkey doesn’t. If you’re not sure what you can bring in, or who’s in the EU, check the GOV.UK website.

Practical solutions

I always fly with bubble wrap, parcel tape and strong plastic bags. On my last gastronomic jaunt, to Malta, carob syrup, thyme honey, olive oil, wine and a jar of sea salt all survived the flight in my suitcase - taped down, bubble-wrapped, then placed inside socks or trainers. As for on-board pie eating, there are always sachets of mustard to be had courtesy of J.D. Wetherspoon at Gatwick.

What precious cargo have you had to surrender at the airport? Let us know in the Comments below.

This is a classic lovefood article that has been updated

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