An American couple says the confiscation of chutney and jelly from their luggage at Queenstown Airport has tarnished their holiday.
Jonathan and Tiffany Sturman and their two children were passing through security screening before a flight to Sydney this month when the condiments were confiscated from their carry-on baggage because they were deemed a ''gel'' under aviation security rules.
The Hong-Kong-based couple contacted the Otago Daily Times to express their disgust at the experience, which had left a ''very unfavourable mark'' on their holiday.
They say the rules are heavy-handed and security staff should have the discretion to pass items that do not pose a threat to safety.
The Aviation Security Service (Avsec) says the rules have been in place for years and are clearly communicated to passengers.
Mr Sturman said they were told the items - a jar of apple jelly and two jars of cherry chutney bought at a Cromwell store - should have been packed in their checked-in luggage.
The rules needed to be more clearly explained to passengers.
''This type of behaviour is bully-like and does not help to promote tourism to your country, nor does it help to keep the skies safe.
''It is a sad day when cherry chutney is deemed a threat to air travel.''
Mrs Sturman said when she double-checked the rules afterwards, those relating to food were in the ''small print''.
''When you normally hear about the gels, the pictures are always in reference to toiletries.
''Who calls chutney a gel?''
Security staff should have the power to use discretion when passengers had products in sealed jars and were carrying receipts.
''Is there not a way, like with duty-free bags, that would give people the opportunity to keep their souvenirs?''
Avsec spokesman Mike Eng said the rules barring liquids, aerosols and gels in quantities of more than 100ml from carry-on luggage on international flights had been in place since 2007, and had always covered food products.
The restrictions were in line with International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) requirements and were in place in all ICAO member states, including the United States.
Aviation security officials had no discretion in such cases, although they gave passengers the opportunity to go back and check the goods in, he said.
Most travellers were aware of the rules, which were clearly indicated on signage at security screening points, but items were ''occasionally relinquished''.
''The vast majority of passengers do this with the understanding that it is in the interests of the safety and security of all travellers.''