Under the scope of AETS’ ongoing contract with the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Trade (DG TRADE), AETS was requested to organise a study visit to be attended by 5 officials of the Saudi Food and Drug Authority (SFDA).

The request arose from a need to increase the understanding of the European Union’s (EU) official control system by Saudi Arabia, as a means to increase confidence among Saudi Arabian officials and ultimately facilitate the export of EU agri-food products to Saudi Arabia. The importance of reinforcing the trust of Saudi Arabian officials in the EU system is vested in Saudi Arabia’s position as a member of the Gulf Cooperation Council, which in itself represents an important region with regards to EU trade, having been the EU’s fourth largest export market of agri-food products in 2016.  

As such, DG TRADE’s study visit request addressed various topics of interest, such as: the different EU tools in place to achieve high levels of food safety; the different roles of the EC, EU Member States and food business operators; and the Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) system in use. Another important issue addressed during the study visit was that of the EU’s harmonised food safety, animal health and plant health control system, with an important focus on traceability.

Traceability entails the ability to follow food, feed, food-producing animals or substances intended to be incorporated into food or feed, through all stages, from production through to distribution. This issue was an important matter to be discussed given that a good traceability system is the basis for high levels of food safety, animal health and plant health.  

The visit took place in Lithuania, Belgium and France, with visits to different facilities, including egg processing plants, slaughterhouses, Border Inspection Posts and wholesale markets. In addition, a full day was spent in Brussels at DG TRADE premises, with presentations and discussions from the Directorate-General for Health and Food Safety (DG SANTE) officials, private sector representatives and Belgian Federal Agency for the Safety of the Food Chain. The visits, which yielded positive results, were organised and executed by two internal AETS experts, specifically Mr. Pietro D’Elia as SPS expert and Ms. Emmanuelle Hière as contract manager. Our internal experts were complemented by our external expert Mr. Dimitris Christofakis as organiser.