This report provides detailed information on the rules and regulations governing food imports to the Kingdom of Bahrain.
THIS REPORT CONTAINS ASSESSMENTS OF COMMODITY AND TRADE ISSUES MADE BY
USDA STAFF AND NOT NECESSARILY STATEMENTS OF OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT
Required Report - public distribution
GAIN Report Number: Bahrain - 02
Food and Agricultural Import Regulations and Standards -
FAIRS Country Report
This report provides detailed information on the rules and regulations governing food imports to the
Kingdom of Bahrain.
Section I. Food Laws:
DISCLAIMER: The Office of Agricultural Affairs (OAA) in Dubai, UAE, has prepared this report for U.S. exporters of
domestic food and agricultural products. While every possible care has been taken in preparing the report, the information
provided might be dated, as some import requirements are subject to frequent change. It is highly recommended that U.S.
exporters ensure that all necessary customs clearance requirements have been verified with local authorities through your
foreign importer before sales are finalized. Final import approval of any product is always subject to the rules and regulations
of the importing country as interpreted at the time of product entry.
The Kingdom of Bahrain is a member of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), comprising the United Arab Emirates (UAE),
Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. The Office of Agricultural Affairs (OAA) in Dubai covers Bahrain,
Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and UAE (also known as the GCC-5).
Food Standards: In 2008, Yemen became the newest member of the Gulf Standards Organization (GSO), bringing the
number of GSO member countries to seven. GSO is responsible for developing food and non food standards in the GCC. The
GSO food standards committee, which is chaired by Qatar, has been actively updating GCC food standards. Over the past
few years, the committee has been working to harmonize existing standards within the guidelines of the Codex Alimentarius,
ISO and other international organizations. However, in some cases, differences still exist between some of the proposed new
standards and existing international guidelines.
In theory, each GCC member should notify the WTO of any proposed new standard. However, typically, one or two of the
member countries usually submit the notification. Interested parties who review these notifications should bear in mind that,
while a notification may be submitted by a single GCC member, the proposed standard will eventually apply to all GCC
member countries. Once a new standard is approved by the GSO food standards committee, each member country officially
adopts the standard, thus making it a national standard as well as a GSO standard.
The first GSO shelf life and labeling standards were issued in the nineties. In 2007, the first review of both standards was
completed and approved. The current standards brought the GCC into closer compliance with the guidelines of Codex
Alimentarius and, for the most part, offer more flexible requirements for importing foods from foreign markets.
In 2011, another review of the standards was completed and notified by Bahrain to the TWO. The new draft standards with
only limited changes to the existing standards are being studied by WTO member countries.
The GSO has created 3 subcommittees to follow-up on food related issues:
1. Bio-technology and organic food subcommittee that is chaired and hosted by the UAE
2. Labeling subcommittee that is chaired and hosted by Oman.
3. Additives subcommittee that is chaired and hosted by Saudi Arabia
The GSO also, when the need arises, forms working groups to address specific issues. For instance, a working group
developed two Halal standards, where the first standard outlines general Halal requirements while the other outlines
requirements for approving foreign Islamic centers, certifications and Halal labeling.
Customs and Tariffs: In January 2003, the “GCC Unified Customs Law and Single Customs Tariff” (UCL) was released.
The UCL established a unified customs tariff of five percent on nearly all processed food products. Under the UCL, some
food products including live animals, fresh fruits and vegetables, some seafood, grains, flour, tea, sugar, spices and seeds for
planting are exempt from tariffs. It also established a single entry point policy. In other words, a product entering any GCC
member market would pay the appropriate duty only at the point of entry and would then be permitted duty free transit
among GCC member countries. In practice, this policy is employed only with unopened containers transshipped between
GCC markets. Partial shipments will be subject to the five percent import duty again in the country of destination. However,
it is expected that all goods, even partial shipments from opened containers, will eventually receive single-entry treatment
once customs procedures are fully unified within the next few years.
Food Import Procedures: In 2007, the GCC Food Safety Committee developed a “Guide for Food Import Procedures for
the GCC Countries.” This guide was meant to unify the applied procedures for clearing food consignments, as well as to
unify the required import certificates for different types of foods. The intent was to help facilitate the movement of food
products within the GCC once customs unification is fully implemented. In 2008, the GCC member countries decided to
postpone the application of the guide to further study it to ensure it fully complies with the guidelines of international
organizations such as Codex Alimentarius, World Animal Health Organization and International Plant Protection
Consortium. The guide is still being reviewed by GCC members.
GSO standards for labeling (GSO 9/2007) and shelf life (GSO 150/2007) have been approved in Bahrain to replace Decree
No. 3 only mid 2010. The delay occurred due to technical reasons.
The Public Health Directorate (PHD), Ministry of Health (MOH), in conjunction with the Directorate of Standards and
Metrology, Ministry of Commerce (MOC) are responsible for formulating food regulations. The Directorate of Agencies and
Industrial Property, MOC, is responsible for formulating and enforcing trademark and agency laws. The Directorate of
Customs & Ports, Ministry of Finance and National Economy (MOFNE), is responsible for enforcing local agency laws. The
Public Health Directorate, Food & Water Control Section (FWCS), MOH, is responsible for enforcing food safety
regulations. For example, the FWCS is responsible for inspecting all imported fresh fruits and vegetables, and processed
food products, ensuring compliance with label regulations and, if deemed necessary, drawing samples and laboratory testing
Live plants and live animals are the responsibility of the Agricultural Affairs, Ministry of Municipalities Affairs and
The Food Safety Committee, an interagency committee composed of representatives from the MOH, the Directorate of
Standards and Metrology, Director of Consumer Protection, MOC and the Directorate of Agriculture, Ministry of Municipal
Affairs & Agriculture (MMAA), oversee all food safety and control issues, including the imposition of product bans.
Section II. Labeling Requirements:
Bahrain enforces GSO 9/2007 for labeling and GSO 150/2007 for shelf life. The food label must include on the original
label or primary packaging the following information:
1. Product and brand name
2. Ingredients and additives, in descending order of proportion
3. Net content in metric units (volume in case of liquids)
4. The name and address of the manufacturer, producer, distributor, importer, exporter or vendor shall be declared on the
5. Country of Origin
6. Origin of animal fat (e.g. beef fat)
7. Production and Expiry dates, (best or sell by dates are also acceptable as expiry dates)
8. Instructions for use (if any)
9. Special storage, transportation and handling instructions
10. Lot identification
(Note: Nutritional labeling is voluntary, until now. However, a binding standard has been prepared by the GSO and notified
by some GCC countries. The U.S. nutritional panel is acceptable.)
Original labels should be printed in Arabic, but exceptions do exist for small lots and ethnic foods. Bilingual labels are
permitted, provided one of the languages is Arabic (e.g. Arabic/English). In addition, Arabic language stickers are permitted
in lieu of Arabic or bilingual labels provided the sticker:
- Is extremely difficult to remove.
- Includes the following essential information
Country of origin
Dates of production & expiry, if they are part of the original sticker and not being stamped over
- Does not cover the original label.
- Does not contradict information on the original label.
Production and expiration dates must be engraved, embossed, printed or stamped directly onto the original label or primary
packaging at the time of production, using indelible ink. U.S. bar coding is not accepted in lieu of the required dates. The
expiration date must be printed in the following order, depending on the shelf life of the product:
- Day/month/year for products with a shelf life of less than 3 months.
- Month/year or day/month/year for products with a shelf life longer than 3 months.
Dates, written in digit format or in words such as “September 24, 2005”, are acceptable. American dating (month/day/year)
is not acceptable and if utilized, it could lead to the rejection of the products.
Bahrain will pre-approve food labels prior to import. Pre import approval is strongly encouraged since it can significantly
speed clearance of food products, particularly for new-to-market and branded products. Consignments with minor labeling
infractions may be granted a one-time waiver, if petitioned, provided the products are found to be safe for human
consumption. Small consignments of 20 or less cartons, as well as ethnic food products, may be exempt from Arabic label
requirements, provided prior authorization is obtained from the PHD/MOH.
Ministerial Order No. 2/1989 governs the importation of specialty food products, such as certain diet and health foods and
foods for diabetics and infants. Under this order, all specialty foods must be pre-registered with the Directorate of
Pharmacies and Drug Control, Ministry of Health, prior to their importation. Specialty food labels must contain detailed
information regarding ingredients (e.g., vitamins, supplements, minerals, etc.), nutritive value per 100 grams and instructions
for use and proper storage. The U.S. nutritional panel is acceptable. There are no Recommended Daily Allowance label
Products shipped in bulk or institutional-sized containers destined specifically for the HRI sector are subject to all labeling
requirements. However, officials may be willing to grant certain exceptions. Exporters should consult with their importers
Section III. Packaging and Container Regulations:
GS 839/1999, addresses “General Requirements for Food Packages – Part I. The standard stresses the need to use suitable
materials that protect the integrity of the food, its wholesomeness and characteristics. GSO 1683/2008 Food Packages Part II
was issued to address general requirements for plastic packaging. More packaging standards are being reviewed by GSO for
General requirements for packaged special foods are covered under GS 654/1996, GS 839/97, and GS 1024/2000.
Section IV. Food Additives Regulations:
Bahrain’s Minister of Commerce & Industry issued Decree No. 22, dated June 21, 2005, that approved the Codex Standards
CXS 192:1995 as the “General Standard on Food Additives and Class Names and the International Numbering System for
Food Additives”, and CXS 107:1998 as the “General Standard for Labeling of Food Additives When Sold as Such.” The
common name and index number of all food color additives contained in a product must be noted on the product label.
European "E" numbers are accepted.
GSO is now in the process of developing Gulf standard that will include all food additives under one standard.
Section V. Pesticides and Other Contaminants:
Bahrain’s Minister of Commerce & Industry issued Decree No. 22, dated June 21, 2005, that approved Codex Standards
CXS 193:1995 for “General Standard for Contaminants and Toxins in Food” and CXS 229:1993 for “Analysis of Pesticide
Residues and Recommended Methods” as national standards.
Section VI. Other Regulations and Requirements:
On April 27, 2009, upon the declaration of confirmed cases of H1N1 in the U.S. and Mexico, Bahrain issued ministerial
decree number (17) banning the importation of pork and pork products from the U.S., Mexico and any other country with
confirmed cases of H1N1. OAA Dubai has continued to advocate for the lifting of the ban.
All meat and poultry products must be accompanied by an Islamic (Halal) slaughter certificate issued by an approved Islamic
center in the country of origin.
All imported eggs must be individually stamped with the country of origin and dates of production and expiry.
As per GSO standard for frozen poultry, a 20 percent tolerance for salmonella is permitted. Inspection officials routinely test
for salmonella and will reject a shipment if salmonella is detected in more than 20 percent of drawn samples.
Bahrain Standard 988/1998, which is identical to GS 988/1998, defines the permitted level of radioactivity in foodstuffs.
Irradiated food products are permitted but the label must include the international irradiated food logo. A certificate of
irradiation type and level is required for these foods.
Bahrain health authorities randomly inspect food products in retail outlets. In addition to visual labels inspection, samples
are taken and analyzed to ensure that product ingredients match those listed on the label. This procedure is conducted
without the knowledge of the importer. If a discrepancy is found, the importer is informed and the product is removed from
the market and destroyed at the importer's expense.
Section VII. Other Specific Standards:
“Sample” consignments face no special requirements. Samples destined for food shows or other types of promotional events
are exempt from local label requirements. However, health certificates and invoices noting that the products are not for sale
and are of no commercial value are required.
Alcoholic beverages and pork, as well as food products containing alcohol or pork are strictly regulated. For example, retail
outlets can only sell pork products in dedicated sections that are clearly marked. Only four companies are licensed to import
alcoholic beverages. These companies may retail the product directly through their own establishment or market to
institutional end users, such as hotels and licensed restaurants. Supermarkets are prohibited from selling alcoholic beverages.
Media is prohibited from advertising alcoholic products, although in-house promotion in a liquor store or licensed restaurant
Section VIII. Copyright and/or Trademark Laws:
Legislative Decree No. 10/1992, amended by Legislative Decree No. 8 of 1998, governs commercial agencies. Importation
of a brand officially registered to a local agent is less strictly regulated than before. At present any trader may import a
product that is registered in another firm’s name, provided the registered agent is paid a commission, the maximum of which
is 5 percent. The Ministry of Commerce (MOC) may reduce or even exempt the payment of any commission. The principal
may terminate an existing agency agreement. The agent is responsible for proving to a grievance committee that his activities
resulted in an apparent success in promoting the product. The Directorate of Customs and Ports will release a consignment
only if imported by the registered agent or if the importer obtains written permission from the registered agent, after paying
the commission. The MOC may waive this commission for certain products, if deemed to be in the public’s interest.
The Agencies and Industrial Property Directorate of the Ministry of Commerce handles trademark registration, which usually
can be completed within a short time. Although a foreign company can register its trademark directly with the directorate,
usually a local, specialized accounting or law firm is retained to conduct such work.
Section IX. Import Procedures:
Nearly all of Bahrain's food imports enter the country via the Salman and Khalifa ports. Both ports are located in the capital,
Manama. Both ports have state of the art facilities and equipment. Imports from Saudi Arabia, a major supplier of food
products to Bahrain, are usually land transported via the 25-mile long King Fahad causeway, which links Bahrain to its
neighbor. Bahrain International Airport also receives a considerable amount of food products, particularly fresh fruits and
vegetables, chilled meats and deli products.
Fresh products are usually cleared within 24 hours of arrival and all other food products within as little as two days to a
week, depending on the type of laboratory analysis required.
The following documents are required for food imports:
- Commercial invoice
- Packing list
- Bill of Lading
- Health certificate from the country of origin
- Halal slaughter certificate (for meat, poultry and their products)
- Notarized certificate of origin
Bahrain Embassy or one of its consulates in the United States must notarize the certificate of origin. Another Arab embassy
or consulate may be used if a Bahraini government mission is not located near the exporter. If no other Arab government
mission is located near the exporter, a statement from the local American chamber of commerce will suffice. Halal slaughter
certificates are also required to be notarized by the Bahraini or any other Arab Embassy/Consulate. However, officials do
accept non-notarized Halal certificates if issued by well known/reputed Halal center(s). Health certificates are not required to
A consignment rejected for being unfit for human consumption must be re-exported (but not to another GCC country) or
destroyed, normally within two to three months of arrival. Products denied entry due to labeling infractions may later be
cleared upon appeal, provided the infraction was minor. New to market and ethnic food products with minor labeling
infractions have been cleared for import on a one-time basis. Serious labeling infractions will result in rejection of a
shipment with no real chance of successful appeal. Major labeling infractions include: label tampering, missing or incorrectly
printed expiry date or date printed on the sticker rather than original label/packaging.
Bahrain performs 100 percent inspection on new-to-market products, high risk products and products that failed a previous
inspection. All other products are subject to random sampling, including periodical laboratory analysis.
The Directorate of Agriculture, MMAA, inspects live animals and plants, feedstuffs and horticultural products at the port of
Appendix I. Government Regulatory Agency Contacts:
Dr. Khairya Moosa Hussain Public Health Directorate
Director, Public Health Directorate
Consultant Family Physician & Nutritionist
Ministry of Health
P.O. Box 42
Tel: (973) 17-250-313
Fax: (973) 17-276-301
Mr. Ahmed Al Mannai, Acting Chief Food products inspection
Food Control Section
Ministry of Health
P.O. Box 12
Tel: (973) 17-273-683
Fax: (973) 17-279-253
Mrs. Leila Abdul-Rahman Health foods licensing and inspection
Director of Pharmacies and Drug Control
Ministry of Health1
P.O. Box 12
Tel: (973) 17-258-668
Fax: (973) 17-259-357
II. Ministry Of Municipalities Affairs & Agriculture
Dr. Abdul Aziz M. Mohamed Plants and seed licensing
Plant Protection Director
Ministry of Municipalities Affairs & Agriculture
P.O. Box 251
Tel: (973) 17-691-251
Fax: (973) 17-695-734
Dr. Salman Abdul Nabi Agricultural projects and policy
Acting Assistant Undersecretary
Ministry of Municipalities Affairs & Agriculture
P.O. Box 251
Tel: (973) 17-690-668
Fax: (973) 17-695-734
Dr. Farida Abdul Razzaq Mohammed Veterinary regulations
Head, Veterinary Services Livestock and pet import licensing
Ministry of Municipalities Affairs & Agriculture
P.O. Box 251
Tel: (973) 17-796-666
Fax: (973) 17-694-673
III. Ministry Of Commerce
Mrs. Mona Al-Zeera All standards, including food standards
Director of Standards & Metrology
Ministry of Commerce
P.O. Box 5479
Tel: (973) 17-523-030
Fax: (973) 17-530-730
Ms. Lona Al-Moataz Trademark and agency regulations
Director of Industrial Property
Ministry of Commerce
P.O. Box 5479
Tel: (973) 17-530-335
Fax: (973) 17-536-479
APPENDIX II: OTHER IMPORT SPECIALIST CONTACTS
Mr. Mohamed Ali Taleb Customs/Duties
Director General of Customs
Directorate of Customs & Ports
P.O. Box 15
Tel: (973) 17-359-775 - 17359778
Fax: (973) 17-676-759
Mr. Abdula Juma Trade regulations and data
Director, Foreign Trade and Information
Bahrain Chamber of Commerce & Industry
P.O. Box 248
Tel: (973) 17-380-068
Fax: (973) 17-380-065