TSA Dumps Mother’s Breast Milk — Is That Against Policy?

TSA Dumps Mother's Breast Milk

Courtesy: TSA

TSA Dumps Mother’s Breast Milk — Is That Against Policy?

The Story

At a recent incident at Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport, a Transportation Security Administration employee threw away a mother’s breast milk who was trying to bring it through the security checkpoint.  Heather Gieseke, who has traveled with breast milk many times before, said this was the first time this happened.  She says it’s important for people to know the policy on breast milk, and so we wanted to dive into it a little.

In this specific circumstance, the TSA agent wanted to do a test on the breast milk.  The article didn’t go into details on what kind of test, but it seems they wanted to check the actual fluid itself.  Ms. Gieseke was worried that the breast milk would be contaminated by doing that.  She refused that test.

After speaking with a few supervisors, she was told, “‘Too bad, we have to open it up and test it or you can’t take it with you.”  The breast milk ended up being dumped by the TSA.  In this circumstance, she had a day’s worth of milk with her.  Normally, she would have up to five days of milk with her.

In a local interview with Channel 5 KSDK, Gieseke said, “I think the thing that’s most frustrating here is that it’s not like a bottle of shampoo that I can just run to the store and buy another one. This is something that I can’t literally replace,” she said. “I think there are a lot of other moms who travel and are in the same situation who can back me up and say generally TSA is not friendly to traveling moms.”

The TSA told Channel 5 that Gieseke was offered two different screening measures and turned down both.  She then told the TSA to throw the milk away.

TSA Policy

Of course, TSA has a strict policy on liquids with its 3-1-1 rule.  But breast milk is an exception to that rule.

The TSA website says that breast milk is allowed on carry-on bags, but they do have special instructions.  The website states, “Formula, breast milk and juice are allowed in reasonable quantities in carry-on bags. Remove these items from your carry-on bag to be screened separately from the rest of your belongings.  You do not need to travel with your child to bring breast milk.”

The website does say that the final say is given to the TSA agent.  But the TSA has alternative screening measures if the mother doesn’t wish for the breast milk to be opened or x-rayed.  It’s unclear what those steps are.  But the TSA website seems to ascertain that there is a method outside of opening the breast milk and taking a sample.  It’s possible this was the second screening measure offered by TSA to Gieseke.  We’ve reached out to TSA for clarification on that point.

Bottom Line

TSA’s policy for breast milk as written does allow breast milk.  Parents carrying breast milk in their carry-on usually shouldn’t expect too much trouble.  It’s certainly within policy to allow it, and there seem to be measures in place to make sure parents can bring it on.  That said, the TSA specifically gives the last word to the agent, per their online policy.



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