WASHINGTON — If you’re traveling by plane with more than 12 ounces of cosmetics powder, dry spices, protein mix or talcum, you may want to check it.
That’s because the Transportation Security Administration has been taking a closer look at containers of powder that fit more than the volume of a standard soda can.
The TSA’s new scrutiny about powders in carry-on luggage stems from a foiled plot to blow up a passenger plane in Australia, an airline official told CNN Wednesday. The would-be attackers planned to place the improvised explosive device on an Etihad Airways flight last July, but the device didn’t get past the airline’s check-in desk.
If packed in a carry-on bag, such containers of powder could be subject to extra screening or banned from the airplane cabin. If TSA officers can’t figure out what the powder is, it may be discarded or put into checked baggage.
To cut the risk of having items thrown out, the TSA encourages passengers to put powder substances of more than 12 ounces into checked bags.
The rule about powders goes into effect on June 30 on international flights bound for the United States, said TSA spokesman Michael England.
A TSA official said Wednesday the “Australia plot contributed to the current focus on powders.” But the official said the plot wasn’t the only reason for the scrutiny, saying improvised explosive devises containing powder explosives have always been a concern.
When asked why it took nearly a year before the TSA announced it would mandate the increased scrutiny for international flights bound for the United States, the official said the agency “wanted to assess the threat” and that “testing needed to be done, discussions and coordination were necessary.”
The official added: “We feel like we moved at the right pace.”
England told CNN in an email that most international airlines “have been doing this voluntarily since last year,” referring to scrutinizing powders in carry-on bags.
The powders rule was part of expanded security measures that began last summer, according to England.
In April, the agency said it had completed rolling out stronger regulations for carry-on screening, including the requirement to separate items such as foods and powders that could “clutter bags and obstruct clear images on the X-ray machine.” The agency had warned that “items that cannot be identified and resolved at the checkpoint are prohibited from entering the cabin of the aircraft.”
“TSA is communicating with our international partners to ensure last points of departure airports align with pre-clearance requirements and our domestic procedures as part of our efforts to raise the global aviation security baseline,” he said.