Saudi’s raft of new health measures includes changes to nutrition labelling
The move is part of a strategic plan to promote healthier eating launched by the Saudi Food and Drugs Authority, at a time when 70% of the population is overweight or obese.
Hisham Al-Ghaie, its chief executive, said a specialised scientific team had been assigned to review research, practices in other countries, and recommendations by the World Health Organisation, in cooperation with the Health Ministry.
“We look forward to working with strategic partners from ministries and the private sector,” he said.
The plan focuses on key aspects that studies have shown to have a significant impact on public health.
It will include reducing sugar and salt in food, fortifying products with vitamins and minerals and displaying sugar to nutritional data on packaging.
The authority will also set out to reduce the use of hydrogenated fats in the food industry, and require food outlets to display calorie counts to customers.
Al-Ghaie said a “traffic light” system, similar to what is used in Australia and other countries, will be used to indicate the quantity of sugar, salt and fat a product contains.
The health plan will also involve awareness campaigns and nutrition counselling on safe and healthy food.
Seven out of 10 Saudis are overweight or obese, according to a study published earlier this year. The country was also also ranked the world’s least active in a July report by researchers at Stanford University.