They came for your laptops. And for your fluids and your shoes. Now comes the Transportation Security Administration for your snacks.
Passengers at airports across the country report that more and more TSA agents are instructing them to remove their snacks and other food from their carry-on items and place them in this ubiquitous plastic container for separate sifting.
It's not part of the agency's standard policy, according to TSA spokesman Mike England. It's just a recommendation issued by the agency last year to speed up the bag-check process. Screening supervisors at airports may decide at their own discretion whether and when passengers should offer pretzel packages for a solo X-ray tour.
But the "recommendation" seems to get steaming and moving quickly, the area of the de facto protocol, according to travelers who have received snacks from their airlines and who informs from TSA Screen Screen employees were that the snack checks are now common practice.
"He was" Sorry. This is a new policy. We'll do that now, "said Anny Gaul, 33, about her recent interaction with a TSA agent at Baltimore-Washington International Airport.
Gaul, a frequent traveler, had never heard such instructions while in a security line on the But here it was in April, standing near a long TSA line where a pickpocket shouted that all passengers had to take out their groceries and place them in a separate container.
She started digging through her carrying bag They found the chocolate bar and the plastic bag with the mix she knew floated in. Other travelers, also visibly confused, began searching for bags of goldfish packs and crushing energy bars in their pockets, the line said Gaul , was noticeably slower than normal.
"It definitely caused a delay ̵
Following England, the recommendation to dispose of snacks is part of the effort to better identify aircraft explosives and to limit the number of sacks marked for specific searches.
England said the concern was not that people might be able to hide explosives or other illegal material in food. Rather, the food itself may look similar to the components of an explosive – which is why it is more likely that bags of snacks will be flagged for a time-consuming manual search. The officials thought that in some cases it might be more efficient for passengers to take their snacks out of their pockets prematurely.
"Some foods and some organic materials can be very similar to explosive materials," he said. England said he could not give specific information about how a pretzel pack might look like an explosive. He denied the idea that new attention to snacks might be an excessive precautionary measure.
"There is a very good reason for everything we do, nothing is arbitrary," England said.
He said that there are no immediate plans to standardize the practice at any airport across the country, but the procedure is used at times when supervisors think it might speed things up.
"It's not a requirement, it's a recommendation," England said. "But you could see that they recommended something louder at busy times of the day."
It remains unclear whether the snack-removal protocol reduces waiting times – Whether the decrease in sacks is particularly pronounced Screenings compensate for the disruption to passengers as they hunt one last second for that stuffed in their pockets To carry out food.
England confirmed that there may be "isolated cases" when passengers are asked to remove food from their bags, although he pointed out that nationwide, 96 percent of standard passengers have a waiting time of 20 minutes or less.
Christina Saul, spokeswoman for the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, said that the new procedure has not led to longer waiting times either at the airports of Reagan National or Dulles International.
That did not stop the complaints about social media.
"Of all the TSA rules that have been arbitrarily enforced, dig up every snack o ut of your bags is the stupidest," tweeted Anne Keller after witnessing the snack demonstration at National.
And the passengers are not the only ones noticing this in Washington. Travelers have complained about the practice used in Dallas Love Field, Chicago O'Hare, Los Angeles International, Newark Liberty and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International. The recommendation is also gaining momentum at smaller airports – in Boise, Idaho; Greenville, South Carolina; and Manchester, New Hampshire
"How bizarre," Cindy Armstrong tweeted at Redmond Municipal Airport in Oregon.
"A terrorist builds bombs from Frito-Lay," mused a passenger waiting at Orlando International Airport.  "It's a nationwide policy … All parents stay in line longer with kids who need to pee," joked a traveler who practices at San Jose International Airport.
"TSA asked me to take my snacks out of my bag and I personally feel victims," tweeted Thea Neal from Kansas City, Missouri.
When Neal, a 29-year-old social media manager for a greeting card company, was asked to remove her snacks, she immediately panicked. Had she missed a memo about a new security protocol? And, more importantly, TSA will confiscate her food?
"I had a whole bunch of crazy snacks in my bag that I was really excited about," she recalled. Fortunately, their snacks were then returned to their separate container to be x-rayed. However, she remains uneasy about the idea that this could become a standard practice on any journey through airport security. The procedure does not make them safer – "It seemed, frankly, completely pointless," she said – and there are sanitary considerations.
"I was lucky Everything I brought was packaged, but if it was fruit or something …" she said, shuddering as she remembered her food rolling around in a plastic basket Shoes and their money out there. "
Lauren Rosenberg, a 20-year-old student from Houston, doubts that the practice will help the security agencies move faster. When it passed its last Monday at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, the process of chasing the cereal bars and the Luna bars stuffed in their pockets kept the line up.
And Rosenberg began to ask questions. Why did they have to watch their snacks? Was this a permanent new policy? The TSA agent in her line did not know.
"All I need is your snacks, your Doritos and your M & Ms," she reminded him.
Rosenberg said she worries that this is more than just another inconvenience imposed on the travelers. It is a slippery slope. Rosenberg, a college junior, is young enough that she hardly remembers a time when liquids larger than 3.4 ounces were not banned from planes.
"The next thing they can get us out of our pockets is medicine," she said. "And that would be a real invasion of privacy."