In many countries product registration is an important part of the process for a product to enter a new market. Majority of those countries requires product to be registered before the product reaches the port of entry. Product registration can sometime be simple as providing basic information about the product shipment or can be as complicated as creating a technical dossier for the product complete various analytical reports & approvals.
The complexity of product registration varies from countries to countries and is also based on the product categories. For product that are high risk or can have significant impact on human health or are novel such as pharmaceuticals, medical devices, etc. requires thorough assessment by the relevant authorities before either approving or rejecting registration. On the other end of the spectrum, basic food items such as grains and spices require the least amount of scrutiny due to low risk of food safety & hazardousness to human health.
Among the GCC/Gulf countries, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and State of Qatar requires mandatory registration of all food products entering or being sold in their respective countries. Even though the same food standard/technical regulation has been adopted & implemented in the GCC/Gulf countries, still products need to be registered & verified in each of the country where it will be marketed. This is still applicable if the same product is approved in one of the GCC/Gulf country or it is being re-exported from one of those countries or has been manufactured in one of the GCC/Gulf country.
Product Registration in Saudi Arabia:
In Saudi Arabia, food product registration is managed by Saudi Food & Drug Authority(SFDA). SFDA is the main authority for regulating food product in the Saudi Arabia and their responsibility includes issuance of food & related standard/technical regulations, registration of food product, controlling entry of food products into Saudi Arabia and market inspection. Apart from food products, supplements, medical devices, pharmaceutical products, cosmetic products, etc. can also be registered with SFDA. SFDA has clarified previously that the responsibility of ensuring that the product complies with the relevant regulation falls with the manufacturer or importer. Hence, they do not assess the food product compliance during the registration process.
Product Registration in UAE:
In the UAE, Dubai Municipality has been main authority for registration of food products, though other Emirates municipality such as Abu Dhabi & Sharjah also register food products entering UAE through their ports. Recently a federal (covering all the 7 emirates) system has been introduced in the UAE called ZAD. If the product is registered with ZAD then it can be imported through any port in the UAE without any additional registration. Supplements, cosmetic products, detergent, disinfectant & sanitizers are mandatorily required to be registered before being imported and marketed in the UAE. For these product categories, sub department within Dubai Municipality called Montaji is responsible for registration. Unlike food products registration with ZAD or Dubai Municipality, these products are thoroughly assessed by Montaji. Dubai Municipality has a label assessment service which is unique among the GCC/Gulf countries and provides feedback on the changes required on the artwork to comply with the applicable regulation.
Product Registration in Qatar:
In Qatar, the food product registration is managed by the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH). The process is similar to the above two GCC/Gulf Countries wherein you apply for registration through the online portal. Unlike SFDA of Saudi Arabia, MoPH does provide feedback & corrective action during the registration process. Apart from food, other consumer based products such as pharmaceutical, medical devices, etc. can also be registered with the MoPH.
Product Registration in Kuwait, Bahrain & Oman
In the remaining countries, not all food products require registration. Only some specific products such energy drink, infant formula, etc. are required to be registered with relevant authorities. In Kuwait, Public Authority for Food & Nutrition (PAFN) is the relevant authority for such food products’ registration. Whereas in Bahrain, National Health Regulatory Authority (NHRA) registers such products.
Ahmed is a Regulatory Compliance consultant, working with Gulf Trade which is a consultancy company based in UK, with years of experience & expertise in helping companies comply with the regulatory & certification requirements for the Middle East & South Asian countries.