How much Spam can you take on a plane? Superfans test the limits.


Joel Kaimakani Libed discovered treasure on the road: a Spam variety pack from the Spam Museum in Minnesota. He just had to get it home.

After lugging “at least 10 to 15 pounds’ worth” of the canned meat on a bus during the tour for an Irish dance show, the 32-year-old singer and actor realized his checked bag on the flight home would be overweight. He packed a carry-on bag full — and then it got flagged at the Transportation Security Administration checkpoint.

It’s a scenario many Spam fans — or as the brand calls them, SPAMbassadors — have encountered, if social media is any indication. A video that has gone viral on TikTok shows the result in Libed’s case: He narrates his haul amid bursts of laughter, listing the flavors and expressing his excitement.

“So it’s all — it’s a case of Spam that I’m taking,” he says as a blue-gloved TSA agent unzips the bag. “I’m so embarrassed.”

The TSA agent asks if the flavors are regular and, assured they are special, says: “That’s fine then.” He ultimately pulls out 10 cans of Spam and warns Libed that he needs to do a test before letting them though.

In an interview with The Washington Post, Libed said he started “freaking out” that his Spam might be confiscated — and that the agents would see his haul at all. He put the standard flavors in his checked bag because he didn’t want to risk damage to the harder-to-find cans like teriyaki, hickory smoke and maple.

“I’m like shaking with nervousness, cracking up. I didn’t want to lose any of it,” he said. “I’m a little embarrassed because who travels with a full case of Spam? I was already overexplaining because I was nervous.”

He had no need to worry. TSA even reposted his video on Instagram with pun-filled captions as a reminder to pack smart, with Spam’s social media team hopping into the comments to assure people that Libed, who lives in Massachusetts, got to keep the meat.

TSA spokesperson R. Carter Langston said travelers can theoretically bring as much Spam as their carry-on bag space can hold.

“There isn’t a limit on solid food,” he said. “If somebody wants to take 100 cans of Spam, it would be okay.”

Informed about the official stance, Libed said: “Challenge accepted.”

He and Spam go way back: back to his childhood in Hawaii, to breakfasts of the simple pork product with rice and eggs or snacks of Spam stacked on rice and wrapped in nori at the beach. He hopes to one day make it to the Waikiki Spam Jam, a springtime food festival dedicated to the meat.

As a food that American soldiers spread around the globe during World War II, Spam can offer a nostalgic reminder of home — and a souvenir to bring along once a visit has ended. Libed says he’s had family members in Hawaii buy cases at Costco and ship them to him. He once found a hot and spicy version in a Pennsylvania Wal-Mart while he was there doing a show and bought three cases to drive home.

“A Hawaii boy being all the way out in Massachusetts, I’ve got to get my fix,” he said. So when he discovered that his first tour stop in Austin, Minn. — where parent company Hormel Foods is headquartered — was home to the Spam Museum, he said he screamed. He visited briefly with about 20 dancers from his show, took in the history and browsed the gift shop. According to the brand, the museum gets 100,000 visitors a year.

“It felt like Disneyland to me,” Libed said. Later, he bonded over a shared love of Spam with a woman backstage who was ironing the performers’ clothes. She stepped out for a short time and returned with a gift of the cans for him in early May. It was a little more than two weeks later when he had to fly home with the cans.

His video about the experience, which happened May 25, has been viewed more than 4.7 million times.

Eric Rivera, a Raleigh-based chef, reposted the video on X and said in an interview that he related to Libed’s experience.

“I’ve totally done that,” he said. As a Puerto Rican who grew up mostly in Seattle, he said he has been eating Spam since he was a kid and still loves to use it in cooking. One of his dogs is named Spam. He has a tattoo of Spam musubi, the dish that includes rice and a seaweed wrap. He’s visited the museum — twice.

“I showed them my tattoo and they gave me a can of Spam,” he said. “I didn’t know this was the secret handshake.”

Jennesa Kinscher, senior brand manager for Spam, said in a statement that it wasn’t surprising so many people make a trip to the museum.

“SPAM® products have integrated into many different cultures and cuisines around the world, so visiting becomes a way to connect with family and tradition,” she said. “People love to find varieties they haven’t tried before, and they love getting to share them with other fans back home.”

She said the brand had noticed that Libed’s collection “wasn’t quite complete,” so more cans are on the way to him. He has been doing “Spam of the Day” videos on TikTok showing off some of the flavors.

“I actually want to see how much I can carry on now,” he said. “Let’s go for, like, five cases.”

Kinscher warned in the email that cans in checked bags should have extra padding, while there are no problems bringing cans in a carry-on.

“But since that isn’t a typical item TSA sees during scanning, allow a little extra time in case you get some extra attention like Joel did,” she said.

Langston, at TSA, had a similar warning. He said that depending on the X-ray operator, your meat stash could be flagged for additional screening.

“If you’ve got a very large quantity of something, that could raise eyebrows,” he said.

Natalie B. Compton contributed to this report.

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