How do I register food products with the Ministry of Public Health?
All food products brought into Qatar must pass an assessment system established by the Qatari government in order to ensure consumer safety. In the case of importing, growing, making and selling food products in Qatar, the products have to go through the registration process at the Ministry of Public Health.
On completion of the food product registration, you are then legally permitted to sell the product in the Qatari market. The registration of food products is governed by the Food Safety Department at the Ministry of Public Health. This is done through the Ports Health and Food Control Section under the Ministry of Public Health.
What are the requirements for registration of food products under the Ministry of Public Health?
To begin the process of importing or exporting food in Qatar, the company must first be set up as an LLC and registered with the Ministry of Commerce and Industry using a food trading activity.
The goods themselves will then be subject to testing and authentication of the ingredients by the Ministry of Public Health before final approval is given. This ensures the consumer can be confident that what they purchase meets the quality standards set in Qatar.
There are several requirements which must be considered when registering foodstuffs in Qatar:
- There are certain banned substances which are either not permitted or require extra, special approvals, such as poppy seeds, alcohol etc.
- Ingredients must be displayed either in Arabic or English.
- Some Food additives are banned in Qatar such as fast yellow A B, yellow 2 G, Amaranth, patent blue V, and also potassium bromate.
- The Ministry of Public Health reserves the right to reject registration applications particularly in the case that the product has already been registered.
What are the regulations regarding labelling of foodstuff in Qatar?
All labelling and marking requirements from the Ministry of Public Health must be followed, particularly where the import of foodstuffs is concerned.
All imported meats must have a health certificate issued by the country of export and a Halal slaughter certificate issued by an approved Islamic centre in that country.
Qatar enforces GCC shelf-life standards, with products divided into two categories. Part I lists products with mandatory shelf lives, while Part II lists products with recommended shelf lives.
The manufacturer must print production and expiry dates on the original label or container. Dates cannot be added after the fact via a sticker. Products must arrive at the destination with at minimum half the duration of their shelf-life remaining. The supplier should coordinate with the importer to ensure that they comply with local shelf-life requirements. Food labels must include product and brand names, production and expiry dates, country of origin, name and address of the manufacturer, net weight in metric units, and a list of the ingredients in descending order of importance. All fats and oils used as ingredients must be clearly specified on the label. Labels must be in Arabic only or in Arabic/English. Arabic stickers are acceptable.
All food packaging should display the following labelling description:
- Commercial name/brand name - this is an abbreviated description of the food product - the name should be specific and not generic and should indicate the true nature of the foodstuff.
- The food ingredients (listed in descending order beginning with the highest weight or volume).
- Production and expiration dates of all products (except those which are exempted from displaying the validity or expiration dates).
- Name of the food manufacturer, packer, distributor or importer.
- Net weight or volume.
- Country of Origin should be clearly stated (not the region such as EU but the specific country).
- Product’s barcode.
- Lot number.
- The language of the label shall be in Arabic.
- Storage conditions (if the validity of the product depends on such conditions.
- Mentioning the ingredients which may cause intolerances/allergic reactions.
- Instructions for using the product (if required).
- Displaying the nutritional information is optional.
- Halal marking.
- Genetically modified (GMO) products should be marked as (Genetically modified + the name of the product) or (product from genetically modified + the name of the product) while those products which contain GMO should be marked as (contain genetically modified + the name of the product).
Additional information on the labelling language
The official language for verification of information on the label is Arabic. Other languages on the label are considered as translation. The language used on packaging labels of foodstuff must be Arabic and/or English.
The mandatory labelling information must be in Arabic. However, other labelling in formation is permitted.
Stickers can be used to translate the food labels into Arabic and it is admissible that the labelling information on the wrapper is given in all languages.
Possible reasons for rejection of foodstuff registration through the MOPH System
The MOPH system may reject the registration of foodstuff products for the following common reasons:
- The labelling information is difficult to read.
- The foodstuff contains banned ingredients such as poppy seeds and alcohol.
- There is a duplicated item in the MOPH System.
- Some ingredients in the foodstuff are not correctly declared.
- Ingredients are displayed in a foreign language, not Arabic or English.
- The labelling does not conform with applicable laws, such as religious signs or inappropriate pictures.
What is the estimated timeframe for foodstuff registration with the MOPH?
Firstly, the supplier company must be established in Qatar as a Limited Liability Company (LLC) or a With Limited Liability (WLL) with the correct food trading activity and get itself registered with the Ministry of Commerce and Industry and Ministry of Public Health.
Once these steps are taken, then the process to register the food stuff and obtain approval for the foodstuff labelling normally takes around 14 working days. This is assuming there are no issues or rejections within the MOPH system as suggested above.
How can Venture Partner Qatar help?
Producers and importers of foodstuff products in Qatar will need to fully register with and meet the requirements of the Ports Health and Food Control Section. VPQ can assist you to set up the company correctly, obtain the relevant activities and ministry approvals for the company. We can then assist you in registering the food products at the Ministry of Public Health.