Saudi Arabia: SFDA to monitor food imports from May 25

JEDDAH: The Saudi Food and Drug Authority (SFDA) will take over next month the monitoring of imported foodstuffs from the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Mohamad bin Ahmed Alkanhal, executive president of the authority, announced yesterday.

We will check imported foodstuffs at 27 entry points. We have mobilized adequate number of employees for the purpose, including 100 staff members who had undergone training abroad, he told Al-Watan Arabic daily.

He said all entry points would be linked with SFDA headquarters through an electronic system. The SFDA will take over all laboratories and customs inspection centers for foodstuffs from the ministry on Jamad Al-Thani 1 (May 25), he added.

The authoritys task is stupendous as the Kingdom imports 60 percent of its food requirements.

Alkanhal attributed the growing number of food-poisoning cases in the Kingdom to unqualified workers at restaurants. About 99 percent of workers at restaurants in the Kingdom are foreigners and most of them are not qualified to do the work. This is the main reason for food poisoning, he pointed out.

He said about 5,000 food-poisoning cases are reported in the Kingdom annually. Well introduce an advanced warning system to ensure food safety round the clock, he explained.

About 20 percent of world population suffer from food poisoning, Alkanhal said and urged Saudis and residents to inform the authority about suspected cases and symptoms.

The authority has contracted with a German company to develop laboratories. We have allocated SR750 million for development programs over the next three years, he said, adding that the agreement also covers development of new inspection methods.

The SFDAs development projects include construction of new buildings and laboratories and installation of advanced equipment and training of staff at reputable international laboratories.

The SFDA recently launched a national center to monitor the safety of medicines that are being sold in the Kingdom. The new move is expected to prevent unauthorized entry of medicines and medical compounds into the country. All powers related to medicine sales would be transferred to the center in coordination with the Ministry of Health. The center will also check herbal medicines that are widely in use in various parts of the Kingdom.

According to the new bylaw, all medical equipment and products being imported to the Kingdom should comply with the conditions set by the authority. Well start implementing the new bylaw within the next few months, Alkanhal said.