Overview of the different labeling and marking requirements, including any restrictive advertising or labeling practices and where to get more information.
Generally, if the product must adhere to a standard prescribed by the Saudi Standards, Metrology and Quality Organization (SASO), the marking requirements should follow SASO labeling/marking requirements. If the product has no applicable SASO standard but has an applicable regional or international standard (e.g., IEC, ISO, GSO, EN, ASTM), the marking requirements should adhere to the labeling/marking requirements of that applicable standard. In other cases where the product has no applicable specific standard or the language of the marking is not specified in the product’s applicable standard, then the marking language can be either in Arabic or English. All markings pertaining to warnings and safety instructions must be in Arabic or in Arabic and English. Instruction manuals or pamphlets must be in Arabic language or in both Arabic and English. All containers should be marked with the gross weight and with either the initials or the name of the consignee. If the consignment includes two or more containers, they should be numbered consecutively. All containers reportedly should be marked showing the country of manufacture (e.g., Made in USA).
All goods consigned to Saudi Arabia should be packed to withstand rough handling, extreme heat, and high humidity and to afford full protection against pilferage. These precautions are particularly necessary because many shipments from the United States to Saudi Arabia are transshipped enroute. Boxes should be waterproofed on the inside and outside and double strapped with metal bands. Simple crating of merchandise does not provide sufficient protection from the weather and from possible careless stevedoring at the ports.
Halal certification is based on the harmonized Halal Standards & Islamic sharia requirements for the GCC region. Since November 2020, all shipments of meat and poultry destined to the Saudi Arabia are mandated to obtain a Halal certificate for the food manufacturer and a Halal shipment certificate for each shipment. A Halal shipment certificate is to be issued under the Saudi Food and Drug Authority (SFDA) Halal Centre Certification Scheme only by approved Halal certification bodies for clearance of the consignment (air, sea, or land) at Saudi ports and borders. Further details can be found on the SFDA website.
Country of Origin Certificate
An original certificate of origin is required for exporting to Saudi Arabia. The certificate has to be legalized by the chamber of commerce of the exporting country. This is not the country from where the goods where shipped, but the country where the goods were manufactured. The country of origin (COO) must be indicated on all imported goods in either Arabic or English unless it is not feasible to do so because of the size or the nature of the goods; in such cases, items may have the country of origin indicated on the package or box. The COO must be indicated in such a way as to be unremovable, whether by printing, engraving, embossing, sewing, or other permanent method. A sticker is acceptable provided it cannot be removed. Shipments that do not comply with COO requirements may be re-exported or destroyed at the importer’s expense. Under certain circumstances, shipments that do not comply with COO requirements may be corrected by the importer inside a customs zone or warehouse within two weeks, subject to the payment of a fine. Exporters are urged to consult with their customers in Saudi Arabia on COO requirements and formatting.
Units of Measure
Generally, goods for sale in Saudi Arabia must be in containers labeled in metric measurements. However, goods imported from countries that do not use the metric system may be marked in units of the exporting country provided they are sold locally on the basis of the metric system. Articles not manufactured on the basis of length, weight, volume, or area need not be marked.
Goods bearing immodest photos or pictures not consistent with Islamic morals are prohibited. There should be no Quranic or Islamic sayings written on packages, other than straight translations of product contents, when necessary. If human figures are shown on packages, they should be in good taste. Photographs or illustrations of pigs or wrappings simulating pigskin should be avoided. Permission must be obtained for goods to bear the Saudi Arabian emblem, which consists of crossed swords and a palm. Saudi Arabia bans imports of alcoholic beverages, live swine, pork and food ingredients or additives that contain pork products, including pork fat, rennet, and gelatin. Meat and poultry shipments must be accompanied by a “Halal” slaughter certificate issued by an Islamic center in the country of origin.
Animals and Animal Products
All fresh meat and poultry products must be labeled with the production and expiration dates, metric weight, the necessary storage temperature or range of temperatures, and attestation that the product meets Halal slaughtering requirements. Processed meat and poultry products labels must include net weight, a list of ingredients in descending order of weight, and name and address of the manufacturer and packer, and must identify any pork components, including lard. Animal feeds must be labeled “unfit for human consumption” or “special for animal feeding only.” Food and animal products require halal certificates for both food products and animals—imported meat and poultry in particular require halal slaughter certificates. In effect since November 2020, all shipments of meat and poultry destined to Saudi Arabia are mandated to obtain a Halal certificate for the food manufacturer and a Halal shipment certificate for each shipment. The Saudi Food and Drug Authority (SFDA) issues Halal shipment certificates for clearance of the consignment (air, sea, or land) at Saudi ports and borders. Further details can be found on the SFDA website. For food and agricultural import regulations and standards and certification consult USDA report.
The Ministry of Agriculture requires all importers of chemicals to mark the following information in Arabic on all insecticide cans and packages: (a) the phrase “agricultural insecticides”; (b) the trade name and mark of the insecticides, if any; (c) the ratio of the active agents in the insecticides; (d) the purpose for which the insecticide is used and the ratios and methods of its uses; (e) precautions necessary for the protection of public health, stating the period that should elapse after its application to crops before harvest; (f) date of manufacture and expiration date for effectiveness of the insecticide, if any; and (g) net weight of contents.
The Saudi Food and Drug Authority (SFDA) administers cosmetics importing requirements. Each cosmetic product label shall contain product name, product trade name, manufacturer name and address, product validity, product function, product components list, special usage warnings, production date and batch number, size or net weight, country of origin, and storage instructions. The SFDA may require the labeling to be in Arabic. For more information, visit the SFDA website.
Food Products and Beverages
Prepackaged foods are subject to the Gulf Cooperation Council standard GSO 9/2013, “Labeling of Prepackaged Food Stuff.” Food containers: Plastic containers used to package food products must be labeled with the type of plastic material used; the weight, capacity, number, or dimensions of the container; statement of food grade; purpose; directions for use; and applicable warning statements. Complete labeling guidelines are available from the Food Products Department on the Saudi Food and Drug Authority website.
Medical devices are subject to specific labeling guidelines. The device or the packaging, as appropriate, must be labeled with the name of the device, name and address of the manufacturer, special storage conditions, warnings and contra-indications, and batch code or lot number, along with many other requirements specific to the type of device. Complete labeling guidelines are available from the Medical Device Department at the Saudi Food and Drug Authority website.
Specific labeling requirements apply to pharmaceutical products. Exporters should consult with their customers in Saudi Arabia or with the Drug Department of the Saudi Food and Drug Authority for specific guidelines.