Don't let airport security nab foods from your hand luggage. Here's what you can take aboard and legally bring back.
Knowing what food you can and can’t take on a plane can be a bit of a minefield. In the most basic sense of things, yes, you can take food on a plane – but there are limitations. Some things you can take in the cabin, some in the hold, and others you shouldn’t even be considering. Here’s the rundown of what you can and can’t pack.
Can you take food in hand luggage?
As long as it’s solid, then yes. The main thing you need to remember is that you can’t take liquids through security in quantities over 100ml – and in this case ‘liquids’ is extended to include anything with a high liquid content, so it covers everything from water and fruit juice to pasta sauces and oils.
Is honey a liquid?
Despite being in place for over a decade now, the no liquids rule continues to stump travellers, and a number of products continue to come up again and again when it comes to the most confiscated items at UK airports.
You may never have thought of honey as a liquid before, but for the purposes of airport security it’s probably time you start thinking of it as such. Along with all those other items that straddle the fine line between solid and liquid food – Marmite, Nutella, marmalade, jam and chutneys, for a start – you’ll need to confine it to jars under 100ml. So be sure to pop anything bigger into your hold baggage if you want to take it with you.
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What about olives? Don’t be fooled into thinking olives count as solid food – they’re most often sold bottled up in brine and will be considered a liquid product. As a result, you can also think of most packaged antipasti, capers, anchovies and gherkins in the same category.
Can you take cheese on a plane?
If you can’t go anywhere without taking a chunk of extra mature cheddar or bringing back a wedge of local cheese (what better reason to visit France, after all?), then you’re in luck – you can take hard cheeses in your hand luggage if you’re travelling from within the EU.
But if you’re wanting to travel with a soft cheese – whether a cream cheese or a little pyramid of goat's cheese – then you’ll need to store it in your hold luggage.
What are the rules in the EU?
If you’re travelling within the EU (in this case it also includes European destinations such as Andorra, Channel Islands, Isle of Man, Liechtenstein, San Marino, Norway and Switzerland) then you’re able to bring in any fruit, vegetable, meat, dairy or other animal product to the UK (and vice versa) with no weight limits. But of course you’ll only be able to take them in your hand luggage if they’re solid enough – so fresh eggs in the cabin are thankfully a no-no.
It's better news if you’ve got your heart set on bringing back whole chorizos from Spain or gravlax from Scandinavia – though perhaps less so for your fellow travellers who may prefer not to travel in an unexpectedly pungent cabin.
Do be sure to check for the latest information in advance of travelling at Gov.uk.
What about other countries?
There are a lot more restrictions on what you can bring into the UK when travelling to or from outside of the EU. The main thing to remember is that you can’t carry any fresh potatoes, meat or dairy products – so think twice before packing biltong if you’re coming back from South Africa. Other fruit and vegetables have a 2kg limit, as long as you carry them in your baggage, you're not planning on selling them and they're free from signs of pests and diseases.
You can also bring in fish products, honey and eggs, with some restrictions within these categories. Any fish you bring on board must be fresh and gutted, cooked, cured, dried or smoked and must not exceed 20kg. Most long-life, solid and dry produce such as chocolate, spices and coffee are generally ok to bring on board. Again, the best place to check for up-to-date information is Gov.uk.
Rules are a little different from Iceland, the Faroe Islands and Greenland – you are allowed to bring any of these items, including meat, dairy and potatoes, into the UK at a limit of 10kg per person.
What’s the best way to travel with food in hold baggage?
If you’re planning on bringing back some edible souvenirs from your travels, it’s best to set out well prepared. Good staples to pack are bubble wrap, parcel tape and strong plastic bags. Tape down the lids of all jars and bottles, wrap in bubble wrap and then place inside something soft and protective like socks or trainers, or roll bigger items up in your clothes.
And make sure you start off with enough space for your goodies in your baggage – the last thing you want is to have to leave something behind because you can’t squeeze it in.
What about taking baby food or medicines on planes?
Thankfully, the rule on travelling with liquids doesn’t apply to baby supplies, so you are able to take as much baby milk, baby food and sterilised water as you will need for the journey in your hand luggage (provided you’re travelling with a baby, of course). You can also travel with containers of breast milk, as long as they don’t exceed 2,000ml and aren't frozen. Be aware that you might be asked to taste any food or milk you take with you during airport security checks.
Special foods and liquid medicines over 100ml are allowed in hand luggage as long as you provide a supporting document, for example a letter from your doctor or a copy of your prescription.
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Lead image Jaromir Chalabala/Shutterstock
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