Rules for exporting products to the Persian Gulf countries: instructions for exporters

The countries of the Persian Gulf have their own rules, but they are all harmonized and agreed by the Gulf Standardization Organization (GSO). GSO seeks to create a single set of nutritional rules and standards, and the GSO Food Standards Committee (FSC) is responsible for developing new regulations and standards for food and updating existing ones. Today, we will consider exports using the example of Saudi Arabia, since the Saudi Federation of Food and Drugs (SFDA) is an influential member of the GSO, which consists of seven national standardization bodies of the Gulf countries.



The Saudi Food and Drugs Federation (SFDA) is the government agency responsible for setting food laws. The SFDA, an autonomous agency chaired by the Crown Prince, reports directly to the king. All beverages and edible agricultural products, in particular food ingredients and processed animal feeds that are manufactured or imported in Saudi Arabia, must be manufactured in accordance with the rules and standards established by the SFDA or the Gulf Standardization Organization (GSO).

All GSO documents are submitted for review and approval by the GSO Board of Directors twice a year. Once approved, they must be implemented in each Member State within six months from the date of approval. In practice, in these countries, the timing of the introduction of new standards and GSO technical regulations differs.



Both imported and local food products are subject to the same safety and labeling requirements. The SFDA executives from import control of food and animal feed inspect imported food and feed processing products at ports of entry. The SFDA conducts testing of imported products, processed feeds and products of animal origin mainly in its own laboratories, but, if necessary, it also uses other laboratories of state institutions or accredited domestic private laboratories.



According to the requirements of the SFDA and GSO, E128 is forbidden to use as a dye in food. Preservatives approved for use in food in the Gulf are contained in the standard. No. 356/1994.

In fresh fruits and vegetables, the use of sulfite compounds is prohibited. GSO Standard No. 381 defines emulsifiers, stabilizers and thickeners that are approved for use in food.

Saudi Arabia and other member countries have developed lists of pesticides and other pollutants. These listings should have an international context since they adapted to the standards CODEX Alimentarius.


To speed up the process of registration of food importers, it is recommended to accompany each container with certificates with test results from laboratories that are internationally accredited and certified according to ISO 17025.


Conditions for packaging, labeling and labeling food products GSO 839/1997 – this standard applies to all packages of food materials, in particular metal, glass, plastic, paper, cardboard, laminated textiles and wooden bags.

SASO 2173/2003 – General requirements for food bags made of aluminum foil. It is important to focus on the requirements specified in SASO 2173: “The purity of the aluminum metal should not be less than 99%, no more than 200 microns thick.”


The standard GSO 9/2013 also provides for the labeling of imported food products, which is intended for direct (or after warming up) consumption. Labels on such products should contain information about the nutritional value of the product, in particular the amount of carbohydrates, fats, proteins, dietary fiber, as well as energy value.

If supplements are available, such as vitamins, mineral salts or any other biologically active elements, their amount should be added to nutritional information in international units (gram, mg, μg, international unit – IU), and also kilocalories to indicate the energy value.

Nutritional information should contain such details as “serving size”, the total number of servings in a package, “daily intake”, as well as information on the total number of calories and caloric content of each component of the product separately.

Full information on the requirements of the GSO 9/2013 standard (in English) can be found on the GCC standardization organization’s website at SFDA actively introduces regulations prohibiting buyers from misleading by the indications on labels that a product is beneficial to health:


  • reduces the level of cholesterol in the blood


  • reduces the risk of developing cardiovascular systems


  • stabilizes calcium, etc.


Registration of foreign firms exporting food products to Saudi Arabia The SFDA began a voluntary registration of foreign institutions exporting food products to Saudi Arabia with no expiration date. The registration process consists of nine steps for all types of institutions, with the exception of slaughterhouses, for which an SFDA site section may be needed: Check and approve additional registration conditions.

In any case, foreign institutions must first create their own individual electronic account (E-Account) using the SFDA, logging in to 3, and fill out the electronic form.

After filling out the form, the system sends an activation code to the email address of the registered company. After receiving the activation code, the company can choose one of two options to activate your electronic account: click on the link sent by SFDA e-mail, or open the link:



It should be noted that the SFDA may decide to check foreign slaughter, meat, poultry, fish and their processed products for registration and qualify them for export.



Registration of food and animal feed

In January 2014, the SFDA introduced a compulsory electronic customs clearance system (eClearance) for all food and food products imported into the Kingdom. eClearance covers all food imports, in particular packaged, raw materials for the food industry and processed pet food.



To qualify for eClearance, all food importers, as well as their customs brokers, must create an individual e-Account with SFDA and complete the online registration process for all imported food and feed products.

Registration of imported food corresponds to local importers or agents. Each importer or agent is required to open an e-Account and set an individual username and password for the Executive Office of the SFDA from the Food Import Control (EDIFC) in electronic services at After creating an electronic invoice, importers can upload their product information, in particular the harmonized code (HS code), bar code, position code and listed components in English and Arabic, photos of each product, as well as copies of the product label. The label must contain all the information that is required by the standard organization Gulf Standard number GSO 9/2013 “Labeling of Packed Foods”.

The importer is also obliged to register the coordinates of their compositions, the names of authorized contact persons for consideration by the SFDA, in particular customs brokers.


National Register of Animal Feed (AFNR) and registration of herbal preparations


The SFDA’s executive department for animal feed uses the Electronic National Register of Animal Feed (AFNR) to register and license importers and manufacturers of local feed. Each importer and manufacturer must open an individual electronic account with AFNR and register all imported materials, in particular raw materials, feed and feed additives to obtain a license for import and customs clearance of goods in electronic form upon arrival at the ports of entry on the resource:


The registration of herbal preparations is carried out by a local agent, submit product samples and product brochures for testing in the central laboratory of the Ministry. The Ministry approves and licenses the product for about six months, and also charges approximately $ 300 as a registration fee. The exporter must provide the specified documents through its local representative to the Ministry of Health in order to initiate the product registration and licensing process.