There are lots of regulations when it comes to flying with food, including when it comes to bringing frozen food on a plane.
According to the TSA, you can bring frozen food on a plane in both your carry on and checked bags, though if packed in your carry on along with the ice or ice packs, additional restrictions apply.
If you are flying internationally, many countries will have restrictions for bringing certain types of food into the country.
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Can You Bring Frozen Food on a Plane?
Carry on Bags
The TSA state that you can bring frozen food on a plane in your carry on bags, including meat, seafood and vegetables, but non-solid food items must be no larger than 3.4oz/100ml.
This is because the TSA prohibit passengers from packing liquids (along with gels and aerosols) in carry on bags if they exceed 3.4oz/100ml.
If you are planning on keeping the food frozen through the use of ice or ice packs in a cooler or other container, the ice or ice packs must be completely frozen as you go through airport security.
If they are partially melted and have any liquid at the bottom of the container, they will not be permitted.
The TSA’s 3-1-1 rule doesn’t apply to checked bags when it comes to liquids, gels and aerosols.
So this means that there are no quantity limits for how much frozen food and ice or ice packs in a cooler or other container you want to bring, even if the items are no longer frozen solid.
Domestic vs. International Flights
Regardless if you’re flying domestically or internationally, the same rules usually apply.
So frozen food can be packed in both your carry on and checked bags, but any ice or other container you use to keep the food frozen must not be even partially melted if you pack them in your carry on.
You must also take note of any food customs rules that international destinations may have.
- UK: If you are traveling to the UK from a country that is outside the EU, including the U.S., you are not allowed to bring in any meat or meat products into the country.
- Canada: If you are flying to Canada, you are not allowed to bring frozen fruit or vegetables into the country or any baked goods that contain meat.
- EU: If you are flying to an EU country from a non-EU country, you are not allowed to bring any meat into the country, though you are allowed to bring a limited quantity of fruit and vegetables.
Airlines follow TSA regulations, so you won’t have a problem bringing frozen food on a plane in both your carry on or checked bags when flying domestically.
This is regardless if you’re flying with Southwest, United, JetBlue, American Airlines, or any other major or regional air carrier.
However, airlines may also have their own regulations.
For example, JetBlue does not permit meat, fish, or seafood flying when flying internationally.
Bring Some Ice Packs on the Plane
You can bring ice packs on a plane in both your carry on and checked bags, though instant cold packs are not allowed to be packed in either.
Ice packs must be completely frozen when you go through airport security.
Or Dry Ice
The TSA state that you are allowed to bring dry ice on a plane in both your carry on and checked bags.
The TSA also state that there is a 5.5 pound quantity limit and the dry ice must be properly packaged with venting and markings.
How to Pack Frozen Food for Air Travel
Packing frozen food for flying needn’t be difficult, as long as you follow these guidelines:
- Pack the frozen good into containers that have tight lids or seals.
- As food expands when frozen, leave at least an inch at the top of the container.
- Place the food into a cooler or other container with either dry ice or gel ice packs.
- Make sure the containers or cooler are properly closed but not taped shut, as carbon dioxide needs to escape
- from the containers.
- Decide if you want to check the cooler in or have it is as a carry on.
Food You Can’t Bring on a Plane
The general rule is that creamy and spreadable food items, as well as liquids, are not allowed through airport security unless they are in containers that are no larger than 3.4oz/100ml.
This includes food items like:
- Peanut Butter
- Canned food
- Cream cheese
- Jam, jelly and preserves
If packed in your checked bags, the above food will be fine to bring.
Ella Dunham, a Freelance Travel Journalist and Marketing Manager, boasts an impressive career spanning eight years in the travel and tourism sectors.
Honored as one of "30 Under 30" by TTG Media (the world’s very first weekly travel trade newspaper), a "Tour Operator Travel Guru" and "Legend Award" winner, Ella is also a Fellow of the Institute of Travel, a Member of the Association of Women Travel Executives, has completed over 250 travel modules, and hosts travel-focused segments on national radio shows where she provides insights on travel regulations and destinations.
Ella has visited over 40 countries (with 10 more planned this year).