Sweets On A Plane: Will TSA Confiscate Your Candy?

TSA Confiscate Candy

TSA horror stories. We all have them, and they all seem absurd. Part of it has to be the very nature of the security screenings themselves. We know that they serve a purpose, but the way they’re executed seems like a violation of our rights. It doesn’t help that many TSA agents treat travelers rudely and with contempt.

We’ve all heard stories of TSA confiscating the most benign items. But will they rob you of that yummy wholesale candy you just bought?

You can concoct a weapon using the simplest materials, so TSA has to be careful. They have to limit quantities. (Although, you’d think at this point they could detect any detonation materials, rather than flatly limiting liquid and gel volumes.) But boy, sometimes they really push the boundaries of common sense and critical thinking.

The following stories seem downright absurd, and so at least a little entertaining. They all also involve sweet treats. We won’t dive into stories like the TSA agents who allegedly insulted and then stole candy from a deaf man — partly because it’s horrible and partly because it might not actually be true.

Don’t worry, though. We’ll guide you through. According to the My TSA app, you can technically carry on any form of candy – and this is the tricky part – so long as it’s not deliberately gel or liquid. Then the question becomes, well, what is the definition of a gel.

Choose your travel candy wisely, you can start by choosing the type of candy here, or by color here.

What is a gel candy, and what is not?

Will TSA Confiscate Your Candy?

Perhaps the most confusing question about candy and the TSA: what, exactly, constitutes a gel candy? A liquid candy is easy enough to figure. We all know what’s a liquid and what is not. We might have some disagreements over gels.

It’s assumed, for instance, that you wouldn’t be able to bring Squeeze Pop liquid lollipops on a plane. They’re pretty clearly gels, and each tube is 4 ounces. For a mere 0.6 ounces over the TSA limit, you’d almost certainly have to surrender that gooey goodness.

On the other side, you have Too Tart Super Sweet Spray. It is a liquid by every definition. Yet you can carry it right onto a plane. The containers are super small, under an ounce each. So how about that?

OK, those might seem obvious. A gel over 3.4 ounces cannot get past a check point, while a liquid under 3.4 ounces can. But what about more ambiguous cases? What is, for example, chocolate ganache? It sure seems like a gel. Are TSA agents instructed to confiscate any chocolate truffles that come through checkpoints? The app says they’re OK.

So liquid lollipop, a gel, is not OK, but ganache inside a chocolate, which is a gel, is OK? I see.

(No, I really don’t.)

A gummy bear isn’t, by almost any definition, a gel. It might be gelatinous, but just because it has the word gel in it does not make it itself a gel. But guess what? That gummy bear might be hazardous. Just check out this video. Thankfully, you’ll probably have trouble getting a blowtorch by security.

One thing is for sure: do not, under any circumstances, travel with Baby Lucas Candy. What, you think the TSA will let you just waltz through a checkpoint with an unidentified powdery substance?

Surrender that cupcake

Sweets On A Plane: Will TSA Confiscate Your Candy?

Your standard cupcake is larger than 3.4 ounces, the largest volume of liquid or gel allowed through a TSA checkpoint. But is a cupcake really a liquid or a gel? Common sense says no. Maybe the frosting could be considered a gel, if you’re using the most liberal definition of the term. But there’s no way even a large cupcake has more than 3.4 ounces of frosting.

That didn’t stop TSA agents at McCarran Airport in Las Vegas from confiscating a passenger’s cupcake in late 2011.

The TSA agent, confused by the cupcake, called over a supervisor. The supervisor said, according to passenger Rebecca Hains, that the cupcake “counted as a gel-like substance because it was conforming to the shape of its container.” Sure, as do all the clothes in your suitcase. What’s your point, TSA Supervisor?

Apparently the cupcake was no ordinary cupcake, but it was still a cake with frosting nonetheless. And the TSA’s official line reads, “You can bring cakes, pies and cupcakes through the security checkpoint, but you should expect that they might get some additional screening, and if something doesn’t seem right, there is always the potential you won’t be able to take it through.” Additional screening, sure. But something felt not right about this cupcake?

(Hains says the TSA agent did not question her hummus sandwiches. Isn’t hummus every bit as, if not more, gel-like than cupcake frosting? If the cake itself is gel-like, is bread not gel-like? There are just too many questions here.)

I remember a TSA story from right around that time. The person in front of me had yogurt in her carry-on bag, but the container was a bit more than 3.4 ounces. The agent, in complete earnest, asked her, “Do you surrender the yogurt?” I can only imagine these TSA agents doing exactly the same.

“Do you surrender the cupcake?”

Fifty bucks says the supervisor scarfed it on his next break.

Do they make chemical weapons with candy?

Will TSA Confiscate Your Candy?

Obviously this is the candy in question

We’d like to think that there is a reasonable explanation why this story happened. It’s just so absurd. Everyone involved, from the details provided, displays a complete lack of critical thinking. Of course, the TSA statement provided no elaboration. It merely described the procedure.

Which makes us think the worst. But we’ll let you decide.

This story contains two absurd elements, only one of which involves candy. But let’s go with the non-candy item first. Not long after Rebecca Hains had her cupcake confiscated by TSA, a man walked through a security checkpoint at Gerald R. Ford International Airport in Michigan while a TSA agent noticed a “suspicious-looking item” on the X-ray machine.

Suspicious-looking items should be taken very seriously. By suspicious-looking items, we mean guns, knives, and anything that might look like a bomb. So surely this suspicious-looking item must have resembled one of these, right?

No. Instead, it resembled one of the most common items in the United States. At the time Apple had sold more than 300 million iPods. TSA agents must have seen dozens of these devices per hour. But for some reason, this iPod was “suspicious-looking.” Maybe it was one of those first-generation models. Suspicious, yes. It doesn’t look new and fancy!

Now we get to the candy. Reports do not indicate the specific candy involved, though we wish they did. We’d like to know, because this candy set off a chemical alarm. We would like to avoid this kind of inconvenience in the future! It’s absolutely crazy that a benign bag of candy could set off a chemical alarm.

Yet this man’s common device, and benign bag of candy, closed down a security checkpoint for more than 20 minutes.

I feel safe flying now. Don’t you?

Have any candy-related TSA stories of your own? We would absolutely love to hear them. Post them in the comments section below!


  1. Jinnie says

    My carryon was searched after going through the bag scanner. The agent asked, as she opened the bag, if I had anything sharp packed. (I didn’t.) But she stopped when she got to the two pounds of chocolate covered cherries I had in there. Just stopped, looked annoyed, and told me I was free to go. Still trying to figure out why they thought I had something sharp when I had a bag of round candies.

  2. Lance Ikegawa says

    That candy that set off the chemical alarm: could it have been Salmiakki? It’s a salty-liquorice which counts “ammonium chloride” as it’s main flavoring ingredient. Seriously, ammonium chloride– which is used mainly as a fertilizer ingredient. It’s definitely an acquired taste: I think it’s horrible, but millions of Dutch and Scandinavians are very fond of it.

  3. Kaitlin says

    Gel based candies like gummy bears etc are confiscated, not because they can be a weapon, but because you can store liquified narcotics like cocaine and meth inside a silicone capsule that looks like a gummy bear. It’s been done before. You can also liquefy meth and harden it in a gummy bear mold. You can also get THC gummy bears, which are legal in some states but not all, and not federally legalized.

  4. Lost Candy says

    Orlando airport security asked if I had any candy or nuts. They confiscated my licorish, gum, and granola bars for a secondary screening. There were bags of m&ms, and other candy from other passengers sitting there. No one was doing the secondary search and I had just waited in line for about 45 min. I was already running late so had to just leave it but how annoying. I think they were looking to stock up on halloween vandy i guess.

  5. Dottie Keeler says

    We are flying to Panama City, Florida from Grand Rapids,MI. It is going to be Easter the day after we arrive and wanted to bring 2 or 3 unopened bags of candy in my carry on bag for our grandchildren’s Easter hunt. Will they get confiscated by the agents

    • Victoria says

      If the bags are unopened, it’s very unlikely that the agents will confiscate. But never underestimate a TSA agent! If you are checking luggage, it might be safer to put the candy in there. Have a great trip!

  6. Theresa says

    For years I have been carrying Lindt Lindor Chocolate Truffles in my carry-on bag without any problem. This past December, for the first time, a TSA agent at LAX swabbed and tested the outside of the 12 or so unopened bags I had. They were not confiscated, thankfully!

  7. cinda chima says

    Just went through screening and TSA pulled aside both my purse and my backpack. The screener looked in my purse, rolled his eyes, and said, ‘You have M&Ms.” And I said, well, if that’s a problem, I have some in my backpack, too.” He ran one of those explosives swabs over them, which apparently came up negative, because he returned everything to me. I asked him if regular M&Ms were a problem, or it was just the peanut? He was not amused.

  8. Carole says

    Traveling from Ontario to San Jose I had two bags of lemon drops confiscated because I had to wait until everyone passes through before she would scan them. I decided to leave them there rather than miss my flight.

  9. Katie says

    No one would tell my mom or me why we were waiting for literally half an hour for TSA to release her purse. I was asking her all kinds of questions and assumed she left like a nail file in there or something, but that didn’t really explain why they were taking forever. Turns out she brought sour gummy worms in her purse and no one could agree on the protocol for these sour gummy worms.

  10. Megan F says

    Just had an issue in Atlanta with skittles, M&M’, and Nerds. They were all in my carry on and they took it for additional screening then swabbed it for bomb residue. I already paid for TSA pre check. The agent yelled at me for not taking food out of my bag. “Don’t you know you have to take food out of your bag” “They use candy to make bombs”
    Me – no. She hands me my bag and i walk away.

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