The Regional Food Safety Context

In an emerging era of duty-free trade, effectively getting to grips with food safety and food standards issues will be vital to the promotion of both inter- and intra-regional trade. This is not simply a technical issue of standards, but also has important economic dimensions. By moving towards common regional standards, economies of scale can be gained in making the necessary investment in standards compliance. Regional markets can then become a platform for the penetration of international markets.

The Arab region has one of the lowest levels of intra-regional trade despite preferential market access provided under the Pan Arab Free Trade Agreement (PAFTA). The potential exists, but is yet   untapped. Analysis shows that by removing remaining obstacles to trade, there is potential to increase total trade of member states by 10% and to create at least 2 million jobs.


Fifty four percent (54%) of the Non-Tariff Measures (NTMs) in the region are mainly related to technical barriers to trade (TBT) and sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures, which has a negative impact on intra-regional trade, especially in food and agricultural products.


Although several countries in the Arab region have taken steps to upgrade their food safety systems, the capacity and efficiency of many  countries  still  needs to be enhanced in order to ensure an adequate surveillance of locally produced and imported food, as well as to demonstrate compliance with food standards in export markets. Therefore, regional cooperation and harmonization among member states of the League of Arab states (LAS) is critical for the successful execution of the PAFTA agreement.


Key potential benefits for LAS member countries include:


  • Reduction in the overall regulatory complexity and associated compliance costs for regulated parties;

  • Creation of a level playing field for economic actors in the region; and

  • Facilitation of intra-regional trade as well as trade with other economic blocs internationally;

SAFE Project

In efforts to address the Arab region’s intra- regional trade challenge, the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) is implementing the Arab Food Safety Initiative for Trade Facilitation, known as the SAFE project, in partnership with AIDMO, AOAD, and LAS. The initiative is funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida).


The key objective is to facilitate regional trade in food/Agri-based products and improved integration through strengthening the regional coordination and harmonization mechanisms on conformity assessment and Food Safety systems following international best practices (TBT and SPS).

Duration: 6 years (including 6 months inception phase)

Project Approach


Counterparts & Beneficiaries

​National Food Safety Authorities:


  • Ministry of Agriculture, Rural Development and Fisheries


  • National Food Safety Authority (NFSA)

  • Egyptian Organization for Standardization and Quality Control (EOS)


  • Ministry of Health


  • Jordan Food & Drug Administration (JFDA)


  • Ministry of Agriculture

  • Ministry of Public Health


  • Ministry of Economy and Industry

  • General Cooperation for Agriculture, Animal and Marine Resources


  • Ministry of Health


  • National Office for Health Security of Food Products (ONSSA)


  • Ministry of Regional Municipalities and Water Resources


  • Ministry of Health.


  • Ministry of Public Health


  • Saudi Food & Drug Authority (SFDA)


  • Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry


  • Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Agriculture



  • Ministry of Climate Change and Environment

  • Dubai Municipality



  • Ministry of Industry and Trade

  • Standardization Metrology & Quality Control Organization

Regional Organizations:

  • Union of Arab Chambers (UAC)

  • Arab Federation for Food Industries (AFFI)

  • Association of Arab Universities (AArU)

  • International Life Science Institute (ILSI) - Middle East

  • Arab Science & Technology Foundation (ASTF)

International Organizations:

  • Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)