TSA officers at William P. Hobby Airport in Houston find illicit substance

Crystal meth concealed in food
Local Press Release
Friday, April 16, 2021
Crystal meth found by TSA officers in a breakfast burrito at HOU during security screening operation

HOUSTON – Officers with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) at William P. Hobby Airport (HOU) in Houston recently discovered an unexpected - and illegal - item inside a breakfast burrito during checkpoint security screening operations.

On Friday, April 2 during the routine X-ray screening of carry-on luggage, a Transportation Security Officer (TSO) saw what appeared to be an unidentified lump inside of a traveler’s breakfast burrito. Due to the unusual nature and size of the lump, the TSO requested additional inspection of the food item.

A second TSO took control of the item in question and asked the traveler to unwrap it. The passenger insisted it was just a breakfast burrito, but the TSO again requested that the traveler unwrap the food for visual inspection.

Once the wrapper was open, the TSO noticed something dark and unusual in the middle of the burrito. Because the food item didn’t quite match the description provided by the traveler, a supervisory TSO was asked to assist and she decided to rescreen the breakfast burrito through the X-ray.

Following the second scan, the TSOs were able to see on the X-ray screen what appeared to be black tape and dark wrapping around a large organic mass. Because they suspected there was an illegal substance concealed in the food, they notified the Houston Police Department (HPD), which responded to the security checkpoint. HPD determined that the lump was crystal meth.

“I commend the actions of our TSOs and supervisory TSO who noticed something wasn’t quite right and for acting on their instincts. Their attention to detail and follow-up response led to the discovery of crystal meth, a dangerous and illegal substance,” said TSA Federal Security Director at HOU Hector Vela. “Airport security checkpoints in Houston and across Texas are seeing significant increases in the number of departing travelers. Despite these increases, TSA continues to focused on its core security mission to keep travelers safe and secure.”

"We sincerely thank all of our Houston Airports local and federal partners who work tirelessly every day to interdict dangerous contraband from entering or leaving our community,” said Houston Airports Chief of Operations Steven Hennigan. "In this case, TSA officers’ training, awareness and heroic actions, we believe, saved precious lives."

Although TSO’s don’t actively screen for illicit drugs at airport security checkpoints, they are required to contact airport law enforcement when they come across suspected drugs in carry-on luggage or on a passenger. HPD officers took possession of the contraband and placed the traveler under arrest.

 Travelers are reminded that TSA is prepared for the continued surge in travelers at HOU and across the country. As you prepare to fly after what could be a year or more for many, the TSA offers the following tips for navigating the airport checkpoint. Travelers should follow this advice for getting through the TSA checkpoint as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Tip 1: Wear a face mask. All travelers must wear a mask in the airport and at TSA airport screening checkpoints. Face coverings need to cover the nose and mouth and fit snugly against the sides of the face without gaps. A TSA officer will ask travelers to briefly adjust their mask for ID verification purposes. Travelers without a mask may be denied entry, boarding, or continued transport. Failure to comply with the mask requirement can result in civil penalties.

Tip 2: Leave prohibited items at home. To reduce the likelihood of physical contact with TSA officers at the checkpoint, verify whether items should be transported in carry-on or checked luggage or left at home. Use the “What Can I Bring?” feature on TSA.gov.

Tip 3: Prepare for the security checkpoint. Have a valid ID card readily available. Follow the liquids rule of 3.4 ounces or less in carry-on luggage. TSA is allowing one liquid hand sanitizer container, up to 12 ounces per passenger, in carry-on bags. Passengers may also bring hand wipes of any size or quantity through security checkpoints.

Tip 4: No guns at checkpoints ever. Airline passengers can fly with firearms only in checked baggage. All firearms must be properly packed and declared at check-in. Contact your airline for additional guidance.  And know what the laws are at your trip’s origin and destination.

Tip 5: Help is always available. Get live assistance by tweeting your questions and comments to @AskTSA or via Facebook Messenger, weekdays from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. CDT and weekends/holidays from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. CDT. You can also call the TSA Contact Center at 866-289-9673.

Tip 6: Enroll now in TSA PreCheck®. “Travel with Ease” by enrolling in TSA PreCheck and avoid removing shoes, belts, liquids, food, laptops and light outerwear. Most new enrollees receive a Known Traveler Number within five days and can begin using TSA PreCheck lanes immediately when traveling. Membership is $85 and lasts for five years.   

TSA is committed to supporting a healthy and secure environment for our employees, airport personnel and airline passengers. For additional information about TSA procedures during COVID-19 as part of our “Stay Healthy. Stay Secure.” campaign, visit tsa.gov.