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Will I be allowed to travel with chile powder?

Does anyone know if I'll get hassled? I made a huge batch of packets of chile powder as gifts for friends and family. I am worried about the airlines giving me a hard time or confiscating my hard work. I figure it should be okay if it's not in my carry-on.

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  1. WHy would it be a problem packed in your luggage?

    1. I don't think it would be a problem, but depending on how it's packaged and what it looks like through an x-ray machine, your luggage may be opened if they think it is drugs. I had a tiny bud vase in a piece of luggage that i took on an airplane. That piece of luggage got opened up and completely taken apart (and not put back together too well) and I couldn't figure out why. Then my brother-in-law informed me that the bud vase looked like a bong stem and they probably thought someone who had a bong stem also had pot. Hmmm.... Along the same lines, I have an aunt who is giving gourmet basil rubs to some family she is visiting this Christmas and mailed it to their address instead of carrying it on in her luggage because she was worried it would be mistaken for pot leaves. I think anyone who would make that mistake is indefinitely not a chowhound.

      2 Replies
      1. re: sunshinedrop

        I'll let you know next week if the TSA folks can differentiate between pot and oregano, basil and thyme. Have several bags of Penzey's dried herbs that will be packed away in my checked bag when I fly from Dallas to Vail-Eagle Friday. Let's hope they realize the bags are factory-sealed and leave them alone.

        1. re: River Rat

          these days, many of the bigger airports use dogs for this purpose, and I do think those 'Hounds' can smell the difference! :-)

      2. You need advice from TheMan, MakesSense, and others.

        1. I traveled over Thanksgiving and packed new spices in baggage that I checked. TSA opened my bag and inspected it. (Damned if I know why. They check my bag 2 out of 3 times that I fly and I would think they would have bigger fish to fry.) All the stuff was there with that little Love Note from TSA informing me that they had opened my suitcase. I assume there's no problem if it's sealed in the original packaging.

          My rule of thumb is raise no red flags, follow the rules, be polite and try to remember that most of those people are just trying to do their jobs. Five minutes before I arrived, they may have had to deal with a certified jackass who had pushed the limits of their patience and I don't need to make their life harder. Their job description is not to ruin my day; it's to keep us safe.

          1. I am a business traveler and fly 3 weeks out of each month. I don't see why you would have a problem w/it, especially if you put it in your carry-on luggage. If the x-ray screener calls it out for special attention and has it hand searched, they should easily be able to see and smell that it is spice and not anything else. I wouldn't worry about it. Like Making Sense said, just be polite and don't cause a scene or feel that you have to overexplain yourself.

            1. I have traveled internationally for over 18 years for business and personal pleasure, and, as an expat returning to the US for the holidays loaded down with gifts from abroad, I have found the following to ease passing through security and/or customs:

              1. Do not wrap your gifts prior to flight. Pack decorative gift bags and tissue so you can "wrap" your gifts upon arrival.

              2. Label each of your spice packets and pack them in re-sealable, clear plastic bags. The more professional-looking the labels, the fewer questions you will get.

              3. If packing in your carry-on, anticipate being questioned and either pack the spice bag on the top of your bag (easy access if there is a question), or remove the spices from your carry-on and allow it to be screened separately). I would do the former. If they have a question, it is their option to screen further. Otherwise, you are on your way to your gate.

              4. Insert a packing list of all gift items in your checked suit case or carry one with you, so if items go missing, you have a details list of gifts, personal items, etc. that can be claimed. On the copy you carry on your person, have valuations as well. If for any reason there is a problem, it expedites the service you receive.

              1. Gunpowder yes, chile powder no.

                Sorry. :)

                1. My friend was visiting from Seattle and before he left I gound up several dried/smoked chiles from my garden. Habs, chipotles, anchos, etc. He had them on his carry on bag. Got inspected. The security guys says," Do I really want to sniff those". My friend replyed probably not. Security guy put em back in the carry on and sent him on his way.

                  1. On December 22, TSA in DFW was curious about my oregano, but no problem when they saw the Penzey's label. Extra hot chili powder sailed through without so much as a question.

                    1. Thanks for all your responses. Fortunately everything went fine and everyone got their spices. Too bad I forgot about the Diet Coke in my briefcase that caused a bag search.