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Legal win for mother at US airport

A breastfeeding mother, Stacey Armato, recently won a legal battle to confirm her rights under United States Transportation Security Administration (TSA) rules for breast milk to undergo alternative airport screening to x-rays.

On two separate occasions in 2010, Ms Armato was asked by TSA screeners to let bottles of breast milk she was carrying on to the aircraft be x-rayed. She refused this knowing that TSA policy permitted an alternative screen procedure, which at the time involved a visual inspection of the milk and/or an external swab of the bottle for explosive residue.  She was told by TSA officers:

“that [was] not going to apply today.  Dump out your breast milk or send it through x-ray”

(as per attorney Robert Mosier’s statement to Reuters).

Ms Armato commenced a claim against the TSA for violating federal screening rules and for preventing her from boarding her flight due to the delays caused to her by those violations. Ms Armato’s claim was filed in a Federal Court in Phoenix, Arizona and resulted in a settlement paid by the TSA of USD $75,000 together with an undertaking that the TSA would clarify its procedures, train its personnel and provide online guidance to nursing mothers.

Since 2007 in the US, expressed breast milk has been treated as a “medical liquid” which means it can be carried onto aircraft in higher quantities than other liquids, and through security checkpoints, as long as it is presented for inspection.  More recently, the TSA put in place non-destructive bottled liquid scanners which were not available to Ms Armato in 2010.

Ms Armato sought security camera footage of her ordeal and this shows she was forced to stand in a glass enclosure at the security checkpoint at Phoenix for just under an hour while the security agents decided what they would do to have her comply with their understanding of the rules.

In the end they asked her to separate out the milk into two containers so each was under the volume the agent considered permissible.

The video is available for viewing below.

Written by Shine Lawyers. Last modified: April 29, 2014.

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