R.A Consulting collaborated with the GCC Standardization Organization (GSO) on the training on International and GCC regulations related to healthy food, hosted by the Emirates Authority for Standardization and Metrology (ESMA) with the participation of the Saudi Food and Drug Authority (SFDA), the Ministry of Health of Saudi Arabia, the Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority (ADFCA), the Ras al Khaima Municipality, the Public Authority for Food and Nutrition (PAFN) of Kuwait and a large representation from the private sector including the GCC Food and Beverage Alliance.

The training highlighted the regulatory developments on health and nutrition at global level and focused on the policies and measures being implemented in the GCC in line with WHO recommendations such as on nutrition labelling, front of pack labelling with the introduction of a voluntary traffic light labelling system, the gradual introduction of excise taxes of 50% on carbonated beverages and 100% on energy drinks across GCC countries, the GSO guideline on salt reduction, the measures to limit the levels of industrial transfats in food products, as well as voluntary reformulation initiatives on sugar, salt and fat. The SFDA, ESMA and other representatives of the public sector indicated that market studies, national nutrition surveys, awareness programs on healthy diets, and education campaigns on food labels and food product composition are underway to support these measures.

The training also gave the opportunity to highlight some of the challenges faced by the private sector such as in the different implementation of GSO standards and technical regulations at national level, the frequency of amendments being recently introduced to technical regulations and the short timeline given by some Member States to implement these amendments.

The SFDA presented the SFDA Strategy for Healthy Food in line with the Saudi Vision 2030 that is being implemented in Saudi Arabia with the support of the Ministry of health and which contains a number of strategic objectives aiming at reducing the burden of NCDs in the country and at increasing consumers awareness on healthy diets and lifestyles. The SFDA also announced that a pledge will be signed with the members of the GCC Food and Beverage Alliance (GCC FBA) and some local companies on September 12, making Saudi Arabia the first country in the Middle East region to introduce such an initiative.

The training concluded with a panel discussion that gave the opportunity to emphasize the importance of continuing on the path of harmonization of food regulations in the GCC and to address the opportunities for public – private partnerships and collaboration between various stakeholders in the development of policies and measures such in the area of food product reformulation.

The recommendations of the training will be addressed by the GSO at their next technical committee.

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