The TSA’s War On Metamucil

Filed Under: Security/TSA, Travel

Update: Apparently Metamucil comes in single-dose packets. Who knew?

Perhaps I’ll regret making this post, but oh well.

I’m a fan of Metamucil, and I also live out of a carry-on. Oddly those two things don’t seem to go together very well. The only “supplements” I take with any regularity are Metamucil, Emergen-C, and echinacea. Emergen-C comes in tiny “pouches,” while echinacea comes in pill form.


Meanwhile Metamucil typically comes in an industrial sized cylinder, given that it’s fairly heavy duty stuff. If you take it with any regularity (no pun intended), you’re basically a human chalkboard.

Anyway, TSA Pre-Check is awesome, and in a way has revolutionized the domestic travel experience. It’s so great to be able to leave your liquids and laptops in your bag, and to be able to keep on your shoes.

The only problem is that when traveling with Metamucil, my bag is always pulled over for additional screening. Always. I guess on the screen the container looks suspicious, since they can’t see what’s inside of it.

While Pre-Check is super fast if you have nothing in your bag, in my experience it’s often the slowest lane if a bag check is needed, since the lane doesn’t have much extra staffing.

I’m realizing that this is costing me about three minutes every time I go through security. Over the course of 150+ flights per year, that sure does add up.

Anyone in a similar boat, or have something which is allowed that consistently sets off the security x-ray and requires additional screening?

  1. I travel regularly between DCA (home) and DTW (family). My ethnic upbringing means that several imported snacks, meats, and cheeses are only available to me in Detroit or other metropolitan areas with large immigrant Balkan populations. Anyway, I usually stock up on smoked meats and sausages in Detroit and take them with me to DC and they always set the TSA agents into what I call “Danger Will Robinson” mode. When they find out it’s just smoked pork shoulder, they happily send me on my way while also asking if they could have some too. It usually ends with me giving them epic sideye, saying no, and continuing on my way. 🙂

  2. When I know that I will have to show actual item for whatever reason, I just pull it out ahead of time and place it on a tray on its own. This may be a bit of inconvenience but beats of “Sir, you have to come with me with your bag for additional screaning”
    Of course I usually get “Sir, you don’t have to pull things out from your bag”…. on the entry side of XRAY…

  3. By the way.. I never knew till recently that Organic Raw Spinach sets off the “Bomb” sirens if your hands is swiped at TSA after packing some. I just packed some into a ziplock bag and placed them into my handcarry. Lukcily, my hands were swiped and when the little white material was placed into the machine all hell broke loose. Interestingly, the TSA agent’s first question was “Have you packed organic vegetable?” When I said yes, and they examined my Spinach, – they said, “Oh this will set this thing off every time” … the things I learn every day…

  4. I know it may not be in the spirit of things to splash out actual money. But why don’t you switch to organic chia??? Seems to go through without question IME. Also what Endre said. Ignore the nice lady who says you don’t have to pull things out of your bag. Just have it in the tray proactively. Admit I don’t bring metamucil. But there are other items I’ve learned it doesn’t pay to try to save two seconds by leaving them in the carry-on. Big pieces of silver jewelry, other health/cosmetic products, anything that looks weird on the x-ray.

  5. @ Lucky. Have you ever thought of placing your metamucil in a large Zip lock bag? Takes less space and no additional screening.

  6. Same as what others have said, I usually have the single packets in my backpack and have never been pulled aside due to them. Think that’s your solution.

  7. Metamucil also comes in “single serve” packets. They fit very nicely into a shaving kit.

  8. I have trouble all the time with prescription eyelid wash that is in a bottle larger than 3 ounces. I have to take it out and show them the prescription label.

    Regarding your Metamucil, use the individual packages as already suggested, or try an alternate fiber product in pill form for example:

  9. @Lucky, what’s your take on FoundersCard? I jut got mine today. For $395 I got free AA Platinum status for three months via the challenge, where I only need 10k EQPs to maintain Plat through Feb 2017. Also came with Hilton Gold Status. Seems to me those two things alone at least offset the $395 fee (promo through the “other” blog guy…).

    There are other perks, like discounts on Apple products and paid tickets on airlines. If nothing else, the way they layout the benefits on their member’s website is really helpful (Take note, Amex!). Just curious what your thoughts are, Lucky, since I’ve never heard you mention it. Thanks!

  10. My tiny scissors cause hold ups for me nearly every time I fly. They are well under the limit for blade length (and it should be obvious to an experienced TSA agent) yet almost always require extra inspection. I now keep them in my liquids bag so they are easy to retrieve.

  11. I still like my idea for a title for this post: “TSA says if you have Metamucil, you can’t go.”

  12. I would think this would fall under HIPAA regulations but it doesn’t keep you from additional screenings. I always put stuff like this in my checked baggage but that also has delays.

  13. Given the number of comments on this article, I think Lucky found a new blog sponsor! 😉

  14. It’s funny – sometimes I think that if I flew as much as you, and ate airline food as much as you, I’d never be able to, um, go. Now I know I was heading in the right direction.

  15. a former colleague of mine carries metamucil-less booze in her metamucil bottle onto cruise ships.

  16. I always take the single packets with me when traveling and have never been pulled out for secondary screening. Definitely the way to go.

  17. I travel with a S’Well water bottle and it always gets me extra screening (it’s metal). I’ve learned to just pull it out of my bag and put it in a bin. If you don’t have one, you should get one. They are the greatest!

  18. Lucky is on the road all the time. Single serve packets are MUCH more expensive and are appropriate for us mere civilians, but if you’re using the product as directed, away for days/weeks at a time, the packets run into money. Me, I’d decant it into a metal gun-shaped container and if full, an additional grenade-shaped container.

  19. Lucky,

    Sometimes we gotta leave 03 minutes as just 03 minutes. You would otherwise be waiting at any other place. C`mon. It`s just 03 minutes. Don`t multiply everything in life. It get`s dangerous.

  20. Just have it in a handy outside pocket and take it out of the bag before security. Then, no problem at all. Just a tiny inconvenience to take it out and put it back.

  21. Baby wipes, gets pulled out of pre check every time. I started pulling the package out of the bag, sometimes the TSA agent tells me i don’t need to pull them out, I do anyway.

  22. I’ve taken sandwich-size baggies filled with electrolyte powder and had no problems or questions by TSA.

    I’ve even brought a baggie full of Sour Salt, which is in a white powder form, back from Mexico with not even a peep from US Customs/Border agents while my luggage was being x-rayed.

    If you want to carry bulk, try using a baggy and see if that changes your experience.

  23. You could probably carry on a buckwheat pillow without being pulled aside. And its innards are mostly the same thing. 😀

  24. Not a good sign at your age. Need to change your diet – need more vegetables and natural fiber. Setting your self up for long term issue, having to rely on supplements. Agree – this is supposed to be natural. But proper eating is the best solution. Too much lounge and airline food.

  25. @ William — Hadn’t thought of that, good point. At the same time feel like I’d be suspected of trying to transport cocaine in that case.

  26. @lucky –

    Whenever I have to go out for more than 3-4 days I usually take along my thermal printer with me, and it ALWAYS results in a more thorough check of my luggage. Basically, the inner thermal paper tube raises the indicator, since it’s tightly wound, cylindrical and has a hollow core…it fits on a spindle to feed the paper through when I have to do on-the-road postage for some of my digital art work.

    Since I am always doing carry-on, there’s not an opportunity for me to place the paper in a checked bag.

  27. try fiber one cereal and whAt are now called fiber d’lish bars. The latter are quite tasty and 2 of them will even replace fiber one. Much tastier than fiber one bars.

  28. I have a ‘waiter-style’ corkscrew that gets me stopped about 50% of the time. Many of these corkscrews have a 1″ foil cutting blade, which is illegal under TSAs ‘absolutely no knives’ rule. However mine has absolutely no blade and perfectly legal. You would think that the scanner operator could tell that there is no tiny blade, but I guess not. I think they have software that detects corkscrews and the lazy operators just flag it for inspection.
    I’d be happy to trade this for another style corkscrew, but almost all of the ither types are much larger and i hate to pack them.

  29. Take magnesium capsules. They are a lot easier to carry and a lot better for you. Good for your – oh, never mind. Read about them. Start with 250 mg. and add more if needed. Perfect.

    Nuts are fruit in Chile. Don’t pack them. At the least claim them as a fruit on the customs form. It took 1 1/2 hours of “interviews” to get out of the airport. It was like Cold War interrogation. If Costco onlly knew what their nuts do to the Chilean customs people!

  30. I carry a couple 5oz silver bars with me everywhere I go, in case the world breaks down and I need real money(don’t judge)

  31. I carry a few 5 oz silver bars with me wherever I go, in case our fiat currency system collapses and I need real money(don’t judge)

    I get stopped all the time.

  32. I thought only chicks and old timers take metamucil.
    I eat whatever I want and I don’t need no metamucil.

  33. Cheese in vacuum packed bag in my carry on, means being having my bag checked and swabbed down each time.

  34. Oh, my dear Ben….last night I told my husband about the recent press and we agreed that was the ultimate in cool and you were officially one of the coolest guys on earth. Now this. But that is why we love you. You are so open, honest and human!

  35. Only you would take someone else’s link to a product and go and whack a referral code into it… It’s looks so cheap when you try that

  36. Protein powder also gets an extra screening. Except when we were going through SFO, they knew what it was and it was no problem.

    I thought about taking it out of its container and putting it in a plastic baggie, but I thought it might cause more problems with it being unlabeled. With the info in this thread, I’ll try the baggie trick next time. Thanks

  37. Having a laxative every day is soo bad for you. No wonder you’ve been getting these stomach problems.

  38. Your article was amazing. I have to agree about law school–an abyss of soul-murdering banality. Stay free.

  39. I actually use a similar product, and I proactively pull it from my bag and place it in a separate screening tray. The screeners look at it to verify it is not liquid, and then just move on. It doesn’t slow screening at all.

    Incidentally, Metamucil is a pretty unnatural product. Perhaps you might want to try something similar which works the same, without all the chemicals and artificial sweeteners.

  40. It is not the container. Fine powders ‘scatter’ the image with xrays. They will show up like a flare. This is why small packets are your friend. They too will scatter but are small enough to be either irrelevant or not noticed.

  41. At my previous job in marketing for a big tech company, I’d have to travel with 2 laptops, 2 tablets, 3 smart phones, and all my personal electronic chargers. I have a very neatly organized cord system (I wrap my cords, then put them in my Tom Bihn Travel Tray) for transporting everything. But, without fail, TSA wants to know what’s in the bag and then even when they look at it, I get questioned about 50% of the time as to why anyone would need so many cords/chargers.

    Also, I’m a huge fan of the Metamucil single packets. Great for traveling, though a bit more expensive.

  42. My mom travels only a few times a year, always checks a bag — and virtually always opens the bag at destination to find that TSA has searched it. Our best guess is that it’s the Metamucil she always brings with her that leads to it getting searched.

    So even in checked bags it can be an issue.

  43. Every Christmas, I fly with cans of beans in my checked bag for my boyfriend (don’t ask; it’s a thing). Without fail, there’s a “your bag has been tossed by the TSA” notice in my bag on arrival, and usually, the cans themselves have obviously been dented and/or whacked on from multiple directions. I can only assume it’s bored or malicious TSA flunkies having some fun tossing the contents of my luggage around the room, or possibly hitting it with hammers. Anyways, it’s reliable and obnoxious, but what’s a flyer to do?

  44. Just being human sets them off 🙁 Love to travel, but hate being treated like a criminal. 🙁 All the fuss and I don’t really feel any safer, just annoyed. Anyway, I can hear all the negative comments already, so no need to share them. just my opinion.

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