Although it may be common to see calorie and nutritional information on display/order boards in fast food restaurants in Europe and the United States, this is not yet common in the Middle East although this may be changing soon.
In that respect, there have been recent developments in the GCC region where the Saudi Food and Drug Authority ("SFDA") instructed food facilities in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia ("KSA") to clearly display both the ingredients and the number of calories in food and beverages. The SFDA also set a deadline of December 31st 2018 for food facilities to comply, otherwise "risk penalties and legal action".
This initiative, carried out in cooperation with the Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs and the Consumer Protection Association in KSA, will apply to all food facilities, including restaurants, cafes, ice cream shops, fresh fruit juice shops, bakeries, patisseries, supermarkets, recreation facilities, colleges, universities and government agencies.
These labels not only allow government authorities to monitor the content and ingredients in the food and beverage industry, but also safeguard consumers’ health and create awareness about the importance of knowing the nutritional value of meals and drinks provided by restaurants and cafes. These measures come into force as the SFDA aims to raise health standards in food establishments across KSA, where diabetes has reached high levels. These measures are crucial as they equally aim at raising awareness of consumer's calorie intake and nutritional value, also given that recent statistics show that seven out of 10 Saudis are either overweight or obese.
When first announced, the process was optional, but the listing of calories on menu cards will now be mandatory based on the criteria determined by the SFDA. In an article published by Arabian Business, it was mentioned that "accurate calorie counts for food outlets can be measured by analysis in laboratories located in Riyadh, Jeddah, and Dammam and licensed by SFDA, which are listed on the SFDA's website". At this stage it is unknown whether franchisees of international brands can rely on nutritional information provided by a foreign franchisor however we recommend international brands work closely with their Saudi franchisee's to ensure correct nutritional information is provided to customers in accordance with the initiative.