The Unexpected Condiment TSA Will Probably Flag You For Having

By now, most of us are familiar with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) 3-1-1- liquids rule: Carry-on liquids must fit in containers that are 3.4 ounces or smaller and be placed in a single quart-sized bag. As a result of the guideline, some condiments, such as jarred peanut butter and salsa, may not be permitted.

However, non-liquid condiments can also get you flagged at the airport, even if they're no more than innocent kitchen staples. One content creator, who goes by Hawaii's Pickle Lady, learned this the hard way when she got stopped by a TSA agent. In a viral clip on TikTok, which has garnered 5.7 million views to date, the creator says her bags of salt from Kauai, Hawaii, had to be inspected by airport personnel before she was allowed to pass through security.

The footage shows a gloved TSA employee pinching some salt and placing the sample on a piece of paper. Then, the agent puts the salt on a test strip, shakes the test kit, determines the substance is safe, and repackages the TikToker's condiment before giving a thumbs up to the camera.

Why does TSA flag salt?

While carrying salt might slow things down when you're heading through an airport security line, it's not forbidden by TSA. The agency clearly states on its website that salt is okay to pack both in carry-on and checked bags. However, salt is one of many condiments (including spices and other powdered ingredients) that may warrant an extra search.

TSA might not explicitly share why your pink Himalayan salt or go-to low-sodium shaker underwent a swab test, but in many cases, its agents are screening for powders that could be used to build explosives. When the security organization first rolled out its powder test kits in 2009, TSA spokeswoman Kristin Lee explained to CNN, "This is just one additional layer of security that helps bolster our explosive detection capability." Additionally, salt, sugar, and other food items could be mistaken for illicit drugs, depending on the color and texture.

What to know before flying with salt

If you decide to pack some souvenir salt in your carry-on luggage, know that you'll likely be required to subject the condiment to testing, just like Hawaii's Pickle Lady did in her video. This means your bag of salt might be cut open, even if it's fully sealed in its original packaging. Often, the TSA agent will create an opening just large enough to retrieve a sample before resealing the packaging using TSA-branded inspection tape (which, in case you were hoping to give the salt as a gift, might not make for the prettiest packaging).

If you plan to stock up on several boxes or jars of salt during your trip, you may want to reconsider. For one, carrying too many containers of the substance in your carry-on bag could further raise suspicions. Moreover, each individual container will likely be required to undergo testing by TSA, which could make you late to your gate.

If you plan to bring salt with you on your flight but want to sidestep hassle as much as possible, place the ingredient in your checked baggage instead. That way, you can skip the test procedures and get through airport security without being flagged.