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article imageTSA officer deemed woman's cupcake a security threat

By Leigh Goessl     Dec 26, 2011 in Travel
Las Vegas - A woman traveling last week experienced a cupcake confiscation at Las Vegas-McCarran International Airport after the food was determined to be risky.
An officer with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) at the Las Vegas airport took the cupcake from the woman saying the vanilla-bourbon icing could be a "security risk."
ABC News reported on the incident.
The woman who lost her cupcake was Rebecca Hains, a Massachusetts school teacher traveling to Las Vegas with her husband and child. The treat had been a gift from one of her students and she'd brought two cupcakes along with her as she thought her toddler might get hungry on the trip.
According to Hains, the TSA agent wasn't sure what to do with the cupcake, which was packaged in a glass Mason jar with a metal lid; the agent subsequently called her supervisor.
“The TSA supervisor, Robert Epps, was using really bad logic – he said it counted as a gel-like substance because it was conforming to the shape of its container," Hains said.
Fox News reported Hains offered to take the cupcake out of the jar and place it in a zip-lock bag, but the TSA agent purportedly said, "no I can't let you touch it." Hains said that once the cupcake was identified as a security threat, the cupcake was "no longer" hers and was taken away.
“We also had a small pile of hummus sandwiches with creamy fillings, which made it through, but the cupcake with its frosting was apparently a terrorist threat…I just don’t know what world he was living in,” said Hains, speaking of the TSA officer, reported ABC News.
Reportedly the cupcakes were not an issue in Boston as the family embarked on their trip. Hains said the TSA officers at Logan Airport said the cupcakes "looked delicious."
The New York Daily News reported Lisa Farbstein, a TSA spokeswoman, said while something like the cupcake incident “doesn't usually happen,” passengers should be aware baked goods may be scrutinized for additional screening.
"They may pack or ship them as well," Farbstein added. The spokeswoman said TSA was looking into this particular incident.
The TSA website lists the food goods that are recommended to "put in your checked bag, ship ahead, or leave at home if they are above the permitted 3.4 oz." The agency's web page on food does denote that pies and cakes are allowed through security checkpoints, but may be subject to additional screening.
The creator of the controversial cupcakes said, “Apparently we're a tasty, terrorist threat. I guess we were also amazed at what can pass through security in one airport, but not in another,” said Brian Vilagie of Wicked Good Cupcakes, reported WCVB TV 5 in Boston.
The issue isn't so much her cupcake was taken, Hains said, but that there is no consistency across the organization in terms of security threats. She is puzzled why one TSA agent took no issue with the cupcake, but another said it was a threat.
"You’d expect them to be consistent. If they’re doing what they claim to be doing and actually protecting travelers, they would be applying their rules using critical thinking," Hains said. "He gave no indication that really thought the cupcake was a threat.”
TSA inconsistency is an often cited issue. It is frustrating for many passengers to have to deal with the stress associated with flight travel nowadays, not knowing what to expect.
However in one aviation forum, a member suggests safety is the center of the issue. The poster brings up the point, "By not applying the standards uniformly across the nation, a would-be terrorist does not really know what he/she might be asked by TSA."
Hains will not go without a cupcake, however.
Vilagie said Wicked Good Cupcakes will ship Hains replacement cupcakes early next week, free of charge. He also joked, "We might have to send some over to TSA headquarters too, just to prove a point."
The TSA is often under scrutiny, not only for the agency's liquid rules, but other criticisms have recently emerged, such as notes left in passenger luggage or, in some cases, insisting on combing through hair.
More about Cupcake, Security threat, Transportation Security Administration, Tsa
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