Heathrow security defuses deadly rice-milk threat by insisting that it be decanted into baby-bottles

My parents flew home to Toronto from London yesterday, along with my brother and sister in law and my two-year-old nephew, Jaxon. At Heathrow 3, they encountered this bit of security theatre, as recounted by my mother:
Customs set aside Jaxon's diaper and food bags. Neil tasted the liquid that had been poured into Jaxon's sippy cups - no problem. Then the guy said that the 1 litre Rice Milk boxes couldn't be brought aboard the plane since they exceeded the amount of liquid allowed (there was one full 1 litre box and an opened box). Tara explained that Jax couldn't drink milk and they needed this for the flight. She indicated that they'd be willing to taste the milk but he would have none of it. Then a supervisor came over and said that if the milk in the boxes was poured into baby bottles they could bring it on board. So I was allowed to go to Boots (after going through passport control and shoe control) to buy baby bottles for the Rice Milk to be poured into. This I did and the milk got poured into the bottles and we were all allowed to go (after Neil was asked to taste the milk and taste Jaxon's liquid acetaminophin).


  1. Wow, airports are getting more insane by the day although Heathrow wol have to go a long way to top that episode with the guy wearing the robot t-shirt… I’ve just started reading Schneier On Security and have to laugh at the points where he lauds the European airports for not going overboard with the useless security measures. What a difference a few years makes eh?

  2. I could write a book at the amazing things I have seen while in the TSA line. When you think about it as street comedy (entertainment) it’s not bad. In any case, regardless of the momentary inconvenience and valid arguments of loss of privacy/freedoms it is better than the alternative.

  3. Ed: “In any case, regardless of the momentary inconvenience and valid arguments of loss of privacy/freedoms it is better than the alternative.”

    The alternative being that parents get to carry rice milk in tetrapaks instead of sippy cups?

  4. Why are we ruled by retards?

    Obviously because the majority of the population are either retards or just sheep who believe everything they read in the tabloids (Fear! Panic!). This means they vote for retards who run our countries in retarded ways.

  5. it is better than the alternative

    I believe the alternative he means is sensible security measures which actually work rather than just wasting time and money, reducing our freedoms and increasing general levels of stress, fear and paranoia. Heaven forbid…

  6. It’s a pity you are not alowed to film or photograph these scenes, it would fill youtube with loads of good stuff. Maybe you’d be allowed to make some courtroom type drawings?

    Anyway, Heathrow is just about as bad as it gets in Europe. Too close to the US i gather.

  7. By the way, this take on airport security by the Aussie the Chaser is a couple of years old, but hilarious:

  8. Sometimes, I wish that a terrorist would actually carry out an attack using one of these methods (shoes? liquids?) just to justify this stupidity.

    No, actually, I don’t wish that.

  9. phelix_da_kat @2: How did you work around this on your flight from Toronto to London?

    Medically-necessary liquids are exempted from the size restriction. I would think in this case that the rice milk was medically necessary.

  10. I had a similar experience. I had a bottle of lotion in my carry on that apparently exceeded the volume limit. I objected to throwing it away, so the TSA worker said that I could pour it into a plastic bag.

  11. Unfortunately, the powers that be..

    1. need to be seen as doing something – its easy to create something like the TSA. Although I believe its actually ineffective. I just provides a visual crutch for the insecure or ignorant.

    2. litigation risk and political fallout. Its like the nanny state cottonwool world some people demand of their governments. Look at the US, if you look at some of their disclaimers or some of the cases brought against corporations I can see why this is done. Just sue McDs if your tea is too hot. For gods sake.. tea is meant to be hot so it brews properly, you let it cool before you drink it!

    3. and.. a feeble understanding of risk. What I mean is the perceived risk vs actual risk. Then again this rolls back to the points above. So is it the dog wagging the tail or the tail wagging the dog.

    Looking in to the UK, the amount of molly coddling there means that children grow up with no experiences at judging risks for themselves.
    Yes, I understand a parents does not want their children to say, fall over. But sometimes you have to learn not from instruction, but from experience.

    The government should address the actual risks..
    not the perceived risks of the masses.

    BTW, there is a controversial documentary/reality show called “Boys and Girls Alone”. It follows 10 boys and 10 girls (around the ages of 10). Think of it as “Lord of the Flies”. http://www.channel4.com/programmes/boys-and-girls-alone One interesting comment from one of the mothers who withdrew her boy (sorry paraphrased).. “we want our men to be strong and independent, but we are not equipping our boys”.

  12. jackie31337. Totally agree. Medically-necessary liquids are exempted from the size restriction.

    But the article did not mention a doctor’s note or any supporting documentation.

    I know you can add notes to your flight booking especially if you medical conditions.

    Going back to my original comment, how did the family work this out when the flew out of Toronto? (Apart from the fact they maybe a little more sensible in Canada)

  13. In all fairness to the morons doing airport security, this kind of idiocy is everywhere.

    I went into a Boots chemist (here in the UK) with a terrible cold and was told that [in order to make sure I wasn’t and evil druggie trying to buy supplies for a meth lab] the medicine I wanted, which contained phenylepherine, was restricted in the amounts it could be sold in.

    I was told I could not purchase two 12 packs, because of the restrictions. But they would happily sell me a single pack of 24.

    The woman behind the counter could see no irrationality in this.

    People are dumb. Everywhere.

  14. We had something very similar happen coming home to France from the UK between Xmas and New Year. Going to the UK we were allowed to take a bottle of mineral water with us to mix up baby Scarlett’s milk powder, no problem. Coming back I was ordered to take the mineral water out of the baby bag and throw it away. When I protested, I was told I could mix it with powder and keep it in her bottles. And then on the x-ray machine next to us was someone from an airport shop x-raying packs of mineral water which we could then buy to mix up the milk…same water, same bottles, same x-ray machine. Theirs: safe. Ours: A THREAT TO SECURITY!
    The real problem of course is that it’s impossible to reason with The Rules, because if you try to even discuss them they you become A Threat. Now I measure the quality of my life by how long it’s been since I last had to take a flight.

  15. They insisted on testing my 10ml eczema eardrops for explosives, when flying back from Belfast over the New Year.

  16. It’s a good job that all dangerous liquids are deadly poisonous in small quantities.

    I am pretty sure someone that is planning to die in a few hours by blowing up a plane would probably be happy to taste their explosive liquid.

  17. Once I was standing just outside of the security area, finishing my bottle of water. As I was doing so, one of the security people asked if they could see my boarding pass. I handed it over, they stuck it in their bomb sniffing thing, it beeped, they said “Yeah, this guy is beeping too. This machine is obviously broken!”. At which point they explained since the machine beeped (keeping in mind they already suspected the machine was broken), I had to have secondary screening. I then got to stand around for 45 minutes or so while they patted me down and went through every item of my carry on.

    This was in Vancouver.

  18. @#16

    “they maybe a little more sensible in Canada”.

    No, they’re not. I couldn’t take a small jar of maple honey on a flight from Montreal to Toronto. I’d already gone through security and would have had to leave, check my carry-on with the offending honey, and then go through security again. I chose to just chuck the honey. Maybe not as crucial as rice milk for an infant who can’t tolerate cow’s milk, but dammit I never got to even taste the friggin maple honey.

  19. tasting as “proof”: if someone has the commitment and discipline to blow themselves to bloody gobbets at 30,000 feet, does anyone think they will have a problem tasting some liquid explosive?

  20. #25

    Except they would want it to go off in the air, not the airport. I’m guessing that’s the idea.

  21. un-assembled binary liquid explosive does not detonate upon tasting of one component. The most the Clowns of Security can hope for is the bomber making a face.

  22. Once again, thank you boingboing for continuing to post on and draw attention to what is a very serious issue. The TSA’s of the world are out of control.

    But once again, I have to ask, when will we see a post that tells us how to fix this problem? I know it’s not your “job”, but you’ve clearly decided to take on this issue, so what solutions are out there?

  23. The irony is that, sometimes, having a baby with you works the other way — they let you take all manner of liquid things in without examination because they are (the magic words here) “for the baby.”

    When I was traveling with my baby from Toronto to France I was positively laden with liquids (open bottle of water, yoghurt cups, sippy cup with milk, sippy cup with juice…).

    When they asked if I had any liquids I patted my bulging carry on and said, “Yes, lots!”

    “Are they for the baby?”

    I nod

    They wave me through….

    I’ve had similar experiences flying into the US. It’s absurd.

    The whole thing is just crazy and my heart really goes out to parents with babies who aren’t breastfeeding and really *need* those liquids. Planes get stuck on runways, there is nowhere to sterilize bottles, and babies dehydrate easily.

    It is absolutely insane.

  24. Going out of Heathrow I was forced to go back and buy a 100ml bottle to decant Children’s Ibuprofen into because, shock horror, it was in a 150ml bottle. You could see how much liquid was in the original bottle, so what difference did it make?

  25. In late 2004, I had to travel from London to the Isle of Man quickly as my mother was dying of cancer.

    To cut a long story short, I arrived at the airport with minutes to go before the plane left, grabbed my boarding pass from the check in desk, and passed through three security checks where they cross-checked the boarding pass against my passport (which the airline had insisted I go home to collect).

    I got to the gate to see the plane taxiing away from the air bridge. Damn.

    Then I looked at my boarding pass. It was made out in the name of one Ms Wendy Kennaugh.

    It had been “checked” by security three times. Not only did they not notice that the name was incorrect on each occaasion, but they couldn’t even spot the gender discrepancy. I have a beard. It would be difficult to mistake me for a Wendy.

    – Andrew

  26. One Christmas three years ago, I decked out in uniform in order to greet troops coming home a day or two before Christmas, provide snacks, give hugs, wave banners, and generally just love on veterans home from the war.

    To do this, we were required to pass through security, lest we were terrorists masquerading cleverly as high school Army cadets. As the unlucky commanding officer of the expedition, I was wearing full class A uniform, spit-shined boots, ceremonial belt etc, and a dozen ribbons / medals / insignias on my inner shirt and outer jacket. So I stripped down to nothing but my slacks and under-shirt.

    And my hair.

    Hair down to my waist, which is not permitted in uniform, so I employ numerous methods to contain it, namely hairpins. When my hair is ready, it is a neatly braided bun, secretly containing a mass of deadly terroristic hairpins, with which I could doubtlessly gouge out the pilot’s eyeballs on a plane I will not be flying on. Or, if I am feeling particularly devilish, I can wire a signal to my brain to explode and send the thirty plus hairpins out as deadly shrapnel.

    Somehow, every other cadet made it through with minimal trouble- their screeners just wanded them where they beeped, discreetly patted them down, and processed them.

    I pass through the metal detector, beep, return, strip to just barely acceptable in public clothing, pass through again, beep, recognize that it is my hairpins, and am asked to remove them as I removed every other item of clothing. My screener was insistent. My hair takes thirty minutes to do properly, and at least ten to bring down.

    I told her this was simply not possible and suggested she wand me. As suspected, my hair whimpered and screeched. She proceeded to wand me again, and strangely enough, the whimpering creature remained in my hair. She patted me down, and palpated my hair most lovingly, then wanded me again. – Three times.

    Despite the fact that my ‘swimsuit areas’ failed to beep on any of those times, she palpated those, too. My hair and the metal button on my slacks beeped, and nothing else did, yet she did a full-body search.

    I have been patted down by a police officer who was considering detaining me, and the police officer, who had every reason to believe I may be carrying a weapon, did not pat me down so thoroughly. Neither did the police officer suggest a private screening. This TSA screener did.

    This she did in front of ten of my friends, male and female cadets, and my SERGEANT. When her hands proceeded to rove just a touch too unnecessarily, my Sergeant got extremely red in the face and approached her. I told her if she wanted a private screener, I requested a different screener, and she pointed out that the other TSA officers in the vicinity were male and thus ineligible. My Sergeant made a derisive remark that I might prefer that.

    She wanded me again. My hair beeped. She palpated my hair, gave me another look over. My Sergeant raised a brow.

    Finally, irritated, violated, and half-naked, I was allowed to put on my socks, boots, shirt, overshirt, jacket, and belts, and a friend remarks

    ‘Hey, Tenn. You think it’s your hair?’

    ‘No. It’s the bomb I’m carrying.’

  27. so the TSA likes to employ pedophiles as well as imbeciles, is anyone surprised? I wonder what magazines are in Chertoff’s bottom drawer?

  28. #3

    I don’t see anything “worth it” about wasting billions on things that don’t make us safer while important things like container ship inspections or x-raying cargo on flights go undone.

    It is worse than doing nothing.

  29. #33. Funny punchline. Whether you were ‘violated’ or not by the screener, it’s been illegal to make jokes about carrying bombs for decades. I sure as shit hope that you didn’t say that within earshot of security personnel.

    Enjoy your flight.

  30. Ian70-

    Fourteen year olds are obliged to make mistakes. I did say it, right there. My mouth runs off when I’ve had a strange woman’s hand clutching my breast like a stress ball. It may be an evolutionary response.

    All the male screeners laughed uproariously and grinned at me. The female screener made another comment about ‘taking me aside’ and her superior gave her a highly displeased look.

  31. #2 (and #4) In reply to your question about how we worked around this on our flight from Toronto – we didn’t need to. The tetra boxes of Rice Milk were in Jaxon’s food bag and no one bothered us about them at all. When we told Heathrow security that we flew to London with the same amount of Rice Milk in boxes from Toronto they explained to us that different airports have different security rules and that the rules can change at any time. So this was their rule and we had to abide by it.

  32. Urgh. Most, if not all, the new airport regulations that have been introduced post 9/11 are pointless and stupid. As pointed out by other posters, they are there so that governments can be “seen” to do something.

    The new rules are akin to generals fighting the last war (like, say, the French building the Maginot line in response to German tactics in the WWI, but failing to anticipate that the wehrmacht would just drive through Belgium). In the case of airport regulations, the insistence that anything more deadly than a needle be confiscated is muddleheaded and serves only to inconvenience travellers. Firstly, in the case of the 9/11 attacks, it is worth remembering that the experience (to that point) that people had of hijackings was that sitting still and doing nothing was by far the most rational response. Post 9/11 however, I suspect that peoples vigilante bone may be activated by somebody attempting to take over their ‘plane with a pair of nail scissors. Secondly, bearing in mind that to the best of my knowledge, it’s long been illegal to take *actually* deadly items, like guns, onto flights. Thirdly, if it was actually seriously believed that carrying a bottle of liquid onto an aeroplane constituted a serious hazard, the consquences would be greater than confiscation and “don’t do it again.”

    I may be mangling this quote, but hey: “he that would sacrifice freedom for security deserves neither.”

  33. Blue @ 17 – the Boots person was being stupid in so many directions at once it almost defies belief. Someone else buying the stuff for you? Going to the chemists over the road? Why make the stuff in 24s etc etc.

    Biffpow: “But once again, I have to ask, when will we see a post that tells us how to fix this problem?”

    I for one am looking forward to flying Boingboing Air – no security theatre, just rock up and go, taking your chances. Honest, I’d do it tomorrow if it meant avoiding any UK airport. Hijackings galore? Nah, people just aren’t that bad. Maybe I wouldn’t take a flight out of Pakistan or Somalia but UK > Canada, sure, why not?

  34. well, there’s the evidence anyone needed: reliable testimony that the TSA sexually abuses children.
    Where is the outrage? Why is it OK for them to do it? Because they have guns?

  35. As many have pointed out – the anti-terrorism airport security is largely just to look as though something is being done.

    But of course there’s more to it than that. Military, law enforcement, and security are areas of spending that, once enacted, are tough to roll back politically. Charges of being weak on national defense/crime/security mean this money will continue to be spent, but for no actual purpose. At which point you must look to see who is getting the money for the security and what ties they have to government.

    It’s only partly a show for our amusement. The rest is to distract us while they pick our pockets.

  36. So the thing is this: the TSA has a memo that you can print off from the internet that specifically says that you can violate the 3 oz. rule if you have a note from your doctor or the liquids/creams/gels in question are prescription. I know, because I had to take a 4 oz. bottle of medicine with me, and when the TSA people gave me some guff about it – even though I’d notified the security agent before reaching the x-ray station, as required – I was able to bust out my copy of the official TSA memo, and they let me through.

  37. Redrichie @ 37 –

    That’s Thomas Jefferson, IIRC. I suspect that the founding fathers, even though they themselves were far from perfect, would find too many aspects of our day to day interaction with government as absolutely appalling.

  38. Well, the TSA sexually abuses TEENAGERS. While I’m sure they also sexually abuse children when possible, we don’t have that evidence.

    In other words, teenager != child. Keep that in mind. Teenagers are quite sensitive about it.

    That TSA person was abusing you to “teach you a lesson” or just for cheap thrills, Tenn. I hope she was “inspecting” an airplane’s wheels and it rolled over her.

  39. She started toying with me long before I smarted off. I am the picture of an angel in public relations!

    I don’t really care, personally. I suppose clinically it’s possibly called molestation? Definitely glad she didn’t get me alone. It set me off balance, yes, but I wasn’t especially bothered five minutes later. But it infuriates me that people like that work at places where they can get away with such things! I mean honestly?

    We hired people with no extensive background checks, just people who had been doing the job the day before as govt. employees and gave them numerous rights.

    I mean, if we turned pvt. security into police officers there would be problems.

    @ Jungletek, redrichie – I think it was Franklin?

  40. someone else’s 14 year old may be a teenager, but my daughter is my child.

    Tenn: you are in the jurisdiction of Texas? This was Dallas Airport? Fort Worth? Love Field? There is a date? Witnesses? What are the local and federal laws on statutes of limitations in these matters? If you wish, you could file a formal complaint and pursue this. Just because you were fourteen and this happened four years ago does not mean they necessarily got away with it. Just by beginning inquiries you can put some justified fear in a deserving heart. You will need back up though.

  41. I think the rules are set by some grouping whose membership includes all the airlines in the world. It was pushed through by the crazy Americans. It’s just that the airport staff with more sense (like here in Asia) simply ignored them.

    When my mother went to China last year, she was very careful to adhere to the no liquid rule, the tour group leader was insistent. But some others in the group ignored her and flew with 1L bottles full of plain water in their bags. I asked at the check-in counter, the rules are only strictly enforced when you’re going to a western country like Europe or America. Don’t worry if your flight is within Asia.

    During the tour, on domestic flight within China, the locals brought in all sorts of weird stuff including live chickens.

    BTW: the trip to and from China was on a Chinese airline. I forget the name.

  42. @33- Tenn, I’ve got to ask you this. You say you were a high school Army cadet and you were wearing

    “a dozen ribbons / medals / insignias”

    on your uniform. Is that correct? Ribbons. Medals. Insignia. Are American high school Army cadets really eligible to wear a dozen ribbons, medals and insignias? Even if we allow for half of them to be on your outer uniform and half of them to be on your inner uniform isn’t that still a lot of decorations for a high school kid to be wearing? What were the decorations awarded for please?

  43. TX can speak for TX’s self, but vets are often sensitive to claims concerning military decorations. Just sayin’.

  44. Well, I guess TX was asking what she was wearing. Maybe it’s best to change the subject.

    So, uh, what are you wearing, Takuan?

  45. isn’t that still a lot of decorations for a high school kid to be wearing? What were the decorations awarded for please?

    I’m going to brag, here. Avert your eyes. It probably wasn’t a dozen in my freshman year- probably just four, maybe five if I had my UA by then.

    IIRC, by now I have at least 6 bars of 3 ribbons each. I am a Cadet Major, and have been awarded Superior Cadet 3 times, M. O. WW, Dist. Scholar, NCOA., Order of the United States Army.

    Those are just the major awards that are given to one cadet at the end of each year. Then there’s my Parade ribbon, which I think I need to attach an ‘8’ for having 8 instances of that award, my Good Conduct ribbon, my Unarmed Drill team ribbon, my Armed drill team ribbon, my Color Guard ribbon, my physical training ribbon…etc.

    I have too many cords, Color Guard commander, Armed, Unarmed commander, Staff, PT…

    By this point, I would be invulnerable to a bullet to the heart at point blank range.

  46. On further examination- breathe, boys! I’m a big girl now. :D

    I understand the concern about numerous medals, however. Actually, a mate of mine has the Purple Heart (the Order actually provides this one for us, as the respective MOWW / Daughters of the AR / etc) all the associations provide their own junior medal- and he had a vet cry over him once. Kameron was stunned and ashamed and managed to stutter out that it was just a cadet award, which he’d gotten for general sacrifice.

    Takuan, have you ever considered donating your viscous mucous to humankind? It may cure cancer. Or be delicious.

  47. your species isn’t ready for immortality yet. (though it’s better than Newman’s Own on a nice green salad)

  48. TX can indeed speak for TX.

    @61, 62
    Tenn- I thank you for your replies. I congratulate you on your achievements (salutes across the web).

    @#55, 57, 58
    Your comments are curious. I have read and re-read my original text. I was clearly speaking about the awards.

    The reason I asked the question was because I am sensitive about people claiming military awards. I think Tenn has responded well.

    It also follows that a person who can show that they have a rightful claim to military awards are credible people when it comes to making a public allegation.

  49. @#16:

    Or perhaps she is just used to it and you’re not so much smarter than everyone else after all?

  50. I find it funny that I can take things flying into the UK but not OUT!
    When I fly into the UK from Spain, they don’t give me problems. I once had a 1.5 litre bottle of skin cream in my carry on. I kind of forgot about it, I put it there to remember to put it in my check in and I forgot to put it in. I’ve eczema and the skin cream was important. The guard took it out, and I said it was for my skin since I have eczema and rolled up my sleeve to point at some dry skin. He let me through. I have on many occasions travelled through with small bottles forgotten in my bag at first then simply not bothered about them.
    When flying out of the UK, I had to throw away a 50 ml tube of handcream and a small bottle because they weren’t in a plastic bag. I only had those two items.
    You would think there will be more limits on things flying TO the UK, but not FROM but anyway, I’m discovering in the UK, they can be quite a*holes about things.

  51. And by the way, WHY WHY WHY do they simply dump them in a bin? If these liquids were dangerous, surely you wouldn’t dump them in a bin. They are aware these liquids are not dangerous but you can’t get them through. Stupidity

  52. this would seriously make a great SNL skit.
    it’s ridiculous, and even more ridiculous that we all put up with it.

  53. They’re put in the bin so it’s easier for airport staff to rifle through after the shift has ended, to pick what they’d like from today’s booty…

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