UNITED ARAB EMIRATES – The United Arab Emirates (UAE) Cabinet has amended the requirement for nutritional labelling under the standard No. UAE.S 5034: 2018 (Nutritional labelling of pre-packed products as traffic light colors) from mandatory to voluntary, in line with the government’s focus on supporting the performance and competitiveness of the industrial sector and easing procedures.

Under the standard, which was scheduled to become mandatory in early January 2022, manufacturers were required to provide a color-coded system of nutritional data in all pre-packed food products.

The decision to amend the mandatory requirement will remove logistical challenges and financial burdens on manufacturers and suppliers, consistent with the objectives of the national strategy for industry and advanced technology, adopted by the Ministry of Industry and Advanced Technology, to enhance the competitiveness of UAE products in the regional and global markets.

The Undersecretary of the Ministry of Industry and Advanced Technology (MoIAT), Omar Suwaina Al-Suwaidi, highlighted the ministry’s aims of stimulating and empowering the UAE’s industrial sector, especially the food and beverage industry which is integral to the food security ecosystem in the UAE.

The Ministry is keen on encouraging innovation and advanced technology adoption in the industrial sector, as well as exploring opportunities to boost its productivity and competitiveness.

He noted that the optional implementation was undertaken in coordination between the National Committee for Food Sector Standards, whose work is supervised by the ministry, and the ministry’s strategic partners in the public and private sectors.

He noted that the shift to optional implementation will lead to an estimated financial saving of AED1.4bn (US$ 381,170,160) across the sector by removing the need to modify the labels currently in use or in storage – the costs of which would ultimately be borne by the consumer.

“This move is in line with the national strategy for industry and advanced technology to create a suitable and attractive business environment for local and international investors in the industrial sector, support the growth of national industries and enhance their regional and global competitiveness. In line with international best practices, the ministry has granted manufacturers the freedom to apply nutritional data specifications for products packaged in traffic light colors optionally,” he said.

He added that the ministry seeks to enhance investment opportunities in the food products sector, which is deemed a priority sector. This will in turn improve the flow of food products, eliminate technical obstacles to trade, and remove additional costs on food products for consumers, which are all consistent with international best practice.

Contributors in the amendment

Al Suwaidi pointed out that the entities that participated in the amendments to the standard specification are MoIAT’s strategic partners, including the Ministry of Health and Prevention, the Ministry of Community Development, and the former Ministry of State for Food Security,

In addition, the local regulatory authorities across the UAE which include the Abu Dhabi Agriculture and Food Safety Authority, Dubai Municipality, Abu Dhabi Quality and Conformity Council, Ras Al Khaimah Municipality, Sharjah Municipality, and Fujairah Municipality also took part in the amendments.

The Ministry of Industry and Advanced Technology was also keen on acquiring the participation of the whole food and beverage sector, from local companies to international manufacturers based in the UAE, as part of its extensive study on the implications of the standard.

The Emirates Authority for Standardisation and Metrology had in March 2020 informed UAE’s food industry that from 1 January 2022, pre-packaged food, including imported food, must be labelled with a traffic light label showing the contents of fat, saturated fats, sugars and salts.

The UAE’s labelling system will require the contents of fat, saturated fats, sugars and salts in the pre-packaged food to be shown by using traffic light signals for high (red), medium (amber) and low (green) percentages for each of these ingredients.

The traffic light system is to be printed on the front side of the packaging. However, the system will not negate the requirement for conventional nutritional labelling (based on the US system) on the back of the packaging.

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