Food nutrition labelling in the GCC region – are you compliant with the latest GSO legislation?

GCC Report Expert Paper

The GCC Standardization Organisation (GSO), which is responsible for food legislation covering the Arab States of the Gulf, implemented over 200 new standards in 2022.

This legislation applies to the six Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) members: Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar and Kuwait.

If you’re a food and beverage business either trading in or exporting to the GCC region, you need to ensure that you’re complying with the latest GSO standards covering the requirements for nutrition labelling. Here’s a summary of some of the main changes to the legislation:

•  The minimum mandatory nutrient declaration has been updated to now include the values for: energy, total fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium, total carbohydrate, dietary fibre, total sugars, added sugars and protein.

This is similar to the requirements of the USA Nutrition Facts panel, although unlike the USA it doesn’t specify any micronutrients.

Also similar to the USA panel, rules for rounding numbers are clearly defined:

• Any number below 10 is stated ‘as is’ however, values over 10 should be rounded to the nearest whole number. For example, 9.9% fat should be stated as 9.9, but 10.1% should be stated as 10.

• As is usually the case internationally, tolerance rules are mostly around 20%, so a fat content given as 10, when checked would need to be between 8 and 12. However, be aware that the % tolerances do vary with the size of the number.

• More nutrients have been added to the Nutrient Reference Value (NRV) list, enabling consumers to see how much of the recommended level is provided by a serving of the product.

• The new standard expands on the list of products that are exempt from requiring nutrition information, including raw products such as fruits, vegetables, meat, poultry and fish sold alone.

• Other exemptions include foods for special dietary use, low-calorie items, single ingredient foods, bottled water and small packs.

• Alcohol is a sensitive area for people in the Arab states. The maximum limits for residues of ethanol in food has been clarified to cover where it results from cross-fermentation in foods or as solvent for any flavourings added. However, even if a food meets these limits, it is not permitted to make a claim of ‘alcohol-free’.

• The list of additives, with their limits allowed for use in foodstuffs, has now been significantly expanded, as has the list of flavourings allowed for use in foodstuffs.

This is just a summary of the main changes, so for further information please refer to the GSOs full labelling legislation.

If you are trading in or exporting to the GCC region, our NutriCalc nutrition calculation software includes a fully compliant GCC nutrition report. It provides a nutrient table with analysis of nutrients per 100g / per serving, plus percentage daily values per 100g / per serving.

The nutrition report, which is in the official GCC label format, can be exported in editable text format for incorporating in product label packaging and translation to Arabic.

For more information on the NutriCalc GCC nutrition report, click here.

David F. Bartley PhD

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