The TSA’s official Instagram account showcased the strange items they found throughout the year. 10Best Editors, USA TODAY 10Best
Who knew Flamin’ Hot Cheetos would earn you extra scrutiny while going through airport security?
Emily Mei, 25, told USA TODAY that TSA officers at Los Angeles International Airport pulled her aside Friday to search her carry-on bag, which contained more than a dozen bags of Chester Cheetah’s spiciest snacks.
“I thought they were going to reach their hand in and see that there was nothing suspicious,” she said. She was wrong: Officers began inspecting each individual bag using test strips, presumably to determine whether the bags were explosives.
So Mei, an Instagram influencer with over 400,000 followers, whipped out her phone and tweeted out an NSFW, nine-second video of a gloved TSA agent methodically removing the Cheetos packages one by one from her Louis Vuitton duffel bag.
“Will never forget the day TSA stopped me cuz they thought i was hiding (expletive) inside my bag cuz all i had was like 20 bags of Hot Cheetos,” she wrote.
Her tweet has gone viral with more than 85,000 likes and more than 15,000 retweets, as of midday Wednesday.
Mei later revealed the reason why she was carrying so many Flamin’ Hot Cheetos: “For everyone who’s asking why i had so many bags of Hot Cheetos, apparently it’s hard to get in Korea so my friends always ask me to bring it for them LOL.”
She told USA TODAY that when traveling overseas, she always makes space in her luggage for American foods and snacks such as cereal, candy and – naturally – Cheetos.
The LAX incident wasn’t even the first time the contents of Mei’s carry-on have resulted in her being stopped by airport security. Once while leaving the beauty mecca of South Korea, she was stopped because she was carrying home bath salts – the skincare product, not the street drug, mind you – for a friend.
Cheetos manufacturer eats it up
But back to those Flamin’ Hot Cheetos.
Mei told USA TODAY she stashed the cheese puffs in her carry-on because she couldn’t fit them all in her suitcase due to the extra air in the bags.
Typically, Cheetos are distributed using trucks. But Frito-Lay, the brand that makes them, applauds her for trying to bring the cheesy snack to a new location.
“The thought that someone would take the time to bring bags of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos to a friend halfway around the world – and seeing the video of it in action – made us smile,” said Brandi Ray, senior director of marketing for Cheetos, in a statement to USA TODAY.
Ray even volunteered to step in to ensure the Flamin’ Hot Cheetos got to South Korea.
“If, for some reason, Emily Mei doesn’t get her Flamin’ Hot Cheetos to her final destination, Chester Cheetah will personally ensure she receives another shipment,” she told USA TODAY.
It turned out Mei didn’t need Chester’s help: After the search, she was allowed to proceed on her way, Cheetos in tow.
Wearing her Cheeto love on her sleeves – and swimsuit
While Mei is an influencer, she told USA TODAY she wasn’t paid to post about Cheetos or promote them, though she’s open to the idea: “Shout out: Cheetos, sponsor me, please,” she joked.
Nor was she paid for her June Instagram post in which she posed on a chaise lounge wearing a Cheetos swimsuit while surrounded by the crunchy snack. The outfit had been sent to her as a gift by Forever 21 after they noticed how big a fan she was.
Earlier this month on Twitter, she posted another photo of herself in flamin’ apparel.
Twitter users responded to her video with plenty of support. One commenter even replied with a photo of a suitcase filled with a wide variety of Cheez-Its.
What is TSA’s official stance on Flamin’ Hot Cheetos?
While TSA does permit food, edible items can be searched if deemed necessary by an agent, as was the case with Mei.
The final call is TSA’s to make, according to their “What Can I Bring?” guidelines. The page lists breaks down which items are allowed in checked luggage and carry-on bags and in what amounts.
However, there is no specific entry for Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. The closest category is solid candy, which is allowed in both checked and carry-on bags.
No hard feelings
Though Mei found the search slightly embarrassing, it was mostly funny. And she doesn’t mind that TSA chose to search her bag.
“Makes me feel safe,” she told USA TODAY.
Follow Morgan Hines on Twitter: @MorganEmHines.
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