TSA agents return confiscated baby food after mom pulls out iPad

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By Christopher Elliott

Betcha Steve Jobs never thought his iPad would help retrieve baby food from a TSA checkpoint. But these are strange times.

So here’s what happened to Jill Iseri when she flew out of Eugene, Ore., with her husband and baby last weekend. (You remember last weekend, don’t you?)

A TSA agent confiscated my 6 oz. jar of store-bought baby food which was unopened. They insisted on opening it to test for explosives.

I said they can’t do that, because it will cause it to spoil within the hour and my baby needed to eat it 2 1/2 hours later, while in the air.

I was told I could check it in luggage, but obviously that wouldn’t help.

I also had a 4 oz. jar of fruit that they didn’t test, saying “We let those slide.” They did test my baby’s sippy cup water.

All my pleading fell on deaf ears, I was told next time I could bring four jars, that way when they open two of them, I’d still have two jars to keep.

Iseri asked to see the TSA’s baby-food rules and also, where they got the authority to open her jars. An agent told her, “That’s not public information.”

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She whipped out her iPad and pulled up the TSA site, which said,

[G]reater than 3 ounces of baby formula, breast milk, or juice are permitted through the security checkpoint in reasonable quantities for the duration of your itinerary.

However, the site adds that these larger bottles “may” be tested.

I showed him where it says baby food jars exceeding 3.4 oz are allowed and does not mention opening for testing. When I asked him what I was supposed to do now, he said, “Get in your car and go buy more.”

She didn’t like that answer. But she wasn’t letting go. What was she going to feed her baby?

She appealed to a supervisor, insisting TSA had misread its own rules.

Perhaps this video was fresh in the screeners’ minds at the time.

She says the supervisor backed down:

The supervisor either had a change of heart, or realized he may be wrong, and he gave me back the confiscated bottle. I figured the end result wasn’t as relevant as how we got there, because I believe they handled it wrongly.

Iseri wants to know what I think. Did TSA follow its own rules? (Here’s how to handle the TSA when you travel.)

Since TSAs rules are vague, I believe it could do anything — including turning off the full-body scanners on Thanksgiving weekend — and still “follow” its own rules.

One thing is clear — TSA is eager to avoid a repeat of the last two weeks. I think that’s something we can all agree on.

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can't. He's the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes three nationally syndicated columns. He also publishes the Elliott Report, a news site for consumers, and Elliott Confidential, a critically acclaimed newsletter about customer service. If you have a consumer problem you can't solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on X, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter.

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