The importation of prohibited foods from Africa continues to rise − even faster than the number of passengers. In 2017, some 31 tonnes of animal waste and leaking luggage were seized and destroyed. Why this increase? Confusion about legislation and cultural differences. So, it’s time for action: in 2017, Brussels Airport conducted a study in preparation for launching an impactful awareness campaign in 2018.
To construct a successful awareness campaign, you need in-depth insight into your target group. Which sounds perfectly logical. But it’s not always easy to understand that target group. Thus, our research question: Why do African passengers bring prohibited food to Belgium?
To provide a complete answer to this question, we conducted a literature study and a survey at the airport, in Brussels’ Matongé district and in the Museum of Natural Sciences. In addition, we organised two African traveller focus groups to go deeper into the motivation for bringing in food and to investigate which communication methods would work best.
The research shows that confusion and misinformation underlie the growing import of prohibited foodstuffs. One reason for this is the difference in legislation between Africa and Europe. Furthermore, African countries do not always check luggage as strictly as European countries do. Therefore, travellers who are aware of the legislation still often take the chance because Customs can only check a limited number of passengers.
Sharing local foods with friends and family to preserve our culture.
But the importation is not always economically motivated. Many African travellers feel a strong emotional bond with their home country and want to share their culture with their friends and family by sharing certain foods. Our research shows that this desire is common to travellers of all sexes, ages, educational levels and nationalities.
Why is it so crucial to prohibit the importation of certain foods? First and foremost, there is the danger of contamination with diseases. The protection of endangered species is also a motivation for monitoring the meat trade more strictly. In addition, fellow passengers can also lose their luggage if it becomes contaminated by leaks from other luggage. For all these reasons, and more, European legislation prohibits the importation of certain fish and meat varieties. If, nevertheless, Customs discovers prohibited foodstuffs, the products are confiscated and destroyed.
The research into the behaviour of African passengers will serve as the basis for a comprehensive awareness campaign in 2018. Travellers to and from Africa will be instructed, both at the airport and online, about what they may or may not bring to Belgium. In addition, both Customs and Brussels Airlines staff will receive training to be able to intervene more quickly and efficiently.