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The TSA says that peanut butter is a liquid, sparking controversy

The Transportation Safety Administration sparked a controversy this month about the viscosity of peanut butter when they called it liquid. Because the TSA considers nuts to be a liquid spread, airline passengers must limit the amount of items they carry on.

As with all other liquids, passengers are limited to 3.4 ounces or less of peanut butter in their carry-on bags, but they can also put snacks in their checked baggage.

The TSA tweeted about the peanut butter rule on March 21, joking that “you might not be crazy about it.” They also shared the definition of a fluid, which “has no definite shape and takes a shape determined by its container.”

You may not be nuts about it, but the TSA considers your PB a liquid. In carry-on, it must be 3.4oz or less. Make sure all of your travel-sized liquids fit in a quart-sized bag. #PeanutButter pic.twitter.com/4RzDv3Up7B

— TSA (@TSA) March 21, 2023

Many Twitter users tried to poke holes in the TSA’s reasoning. “If peanut butter is considered liquid, why is it sold by weight, not volume? Also, does this same rule apply to chunky peanut butter?” A Twitter user replied.

One person shared photos of cats fitting different container shapes – arguing that they could be defined as liquids.


— Nathan Schneider (@SchneiderLD35) March 25, 2023

One person said they were affected by the rule and “once had to surrender a big jar of JIF.”

Another says that peanut butter can be considered a “non-Newtonian fluid,” meaning it doesn’t follow Isaac Newton’s original laws of viscosity. According to the American Chemical Society, the viscosity of a non-Newtonian fluid—how easily it flows—is affected by stresses other than temperature, such as squeezing, shaking, or stirring. This means that sometimes, a non-Newtonian fluid can behave more like a solid.

Another tweeter asked if the rule changes if peanut butter is on the sandwich. “Solid foods, including peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, are allowed in carry-on bags with no quantity restrictions or packing requirements,” the TSA Twitter account replied.

The TSA’s social media accounts have been known to make puns while simultaneously sharing travel information. In other recent tweets, they shared information on bringing different types of food through airport security.

“Traveling with your favorite chips and dip? You don’t want it to be all chips and no dip. So make sure your creamy sauces are in a 3.4oz or less carry-on. You’re thinking, all your travel- Size liquid needs to fit in a single quart-size bag,” one tweet read.

“Travel plans are no artichokes. So here’s some light-hearted news! Canned artichoke hearts are good to go in checked bags. They can even fly carry-on if their liquid content is 3.4oz or less,” another tweet read.

TSA requires that “any item you can spread, smear, spray, or spread” in a carry-on must be 3.4 oz or less, and all liquids a passenger is traveling with must be quarts. – Must fit in size bag.

CBS News has reached out to the TSA for more information and comments on the peanut butter rule and is awaiting a response.

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Caitlin O’Kane


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