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Now it’s powder the TSA will scrutinize before you board plane

June 21, 2018 GMT

The Transportation Security Administration began scrutinizing containers of powders in fliers’ carry-on bags last summer as part of a broader security push, and will soon ask foreign airports that send flights directly to the U.S. to do the same.

The focus is on containers holding at least 350 milliliters of powder, which is about the size of a can of soda. Starting Wednesday, TSA and airlines are going to step up awareness efforts about the change, urging passengers to pack larger containers in checked luggage and remove smaller containers from carry-on bags for separate screening, similar to small containers of liquids.

And, starting June 30, TSA will request foreign airports with non-stop U.S. flights match the effort, much as it did last summer when it began requiring passengers to remove electronics larger than cellphones from carry-on bags for separate screening.

The security effort isn’t a ban. But the risk for a traveler returning with a large container of Moroccan spice in a carry-on bag rather than checked luggage is that a checkpoint officer could force the person to throw away a suspicious powder before boarding the plane.

A TSA spokesman said the checks are for “ease of travel.”

The main security concern is from improvised explosives, but TSA is also concerned about fentanyl or pepper spray in the cabin. The agency says powders can include items like cosmetics, baby powder and protein or energy powder mixes, among others. Gun powder remains prohibited from all checked or carry-on luggage.

“We encourage people to divest certain items – especially organic items – in order to get a clearer view of what’s going on inside the bag,” said Mike England, a TSA spokesman. “It’s something we advise people to do. We’re asking our foreign partners to do what we’re already doing domestically.”

The effort is another example of tightening aviation security. Airport checkpoint security was federalized under TSA after the terrorist hijackings Sept. 11, 2001, and has become stricter in recent years with developments of non-metallic explosives.

The agency also has been looking more closely at food in carry-on bags, and the agency said that everyday items like books and magazine could also result in additional screening.