International Standards

General Standards

The South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) is a specialized South African statutory agency responsible for the promotion and maintenance of standardization and quality relating to commodities and the rendering of services. Its tasks include:

- Publishing national standards;

- Testing and certifying products and services to standards;

- Developing technical regulations (compulsory specifications);

- Monitoring and enforcing of legal metrology legislation;

- Promoting design excellence;

- Providing training on aspects of standardization. 



The role of packaging and labeling has become quite significant as it is used as an efficient marketing tool to attract consumers, and also serves as a functional sipping container for goods. Packaging refers to the physical materials used to wrap or protect goods, whereas labels are attached on the product package to provide information such as the manufacturer of the product, date of manufacture, expiry date, ingredients, how to use the product, and its handling. Apart from the aesthetics, the packaging and labeling must meet certain legal requirements.

The exported or imported products are obliged to have the following information on their labels:

- name, trade name or description;

- name and complete address of manufacturer/packer, importer, country of origin of the imported food;

- net weight, number or volume of contents in metric units;

- distinctive batch, lot or code number;

- month and year of manufacture and packaging;

- month and year by which the product is best consumed;

- information about pharmaceutical and industrial products must be in English; 

- if food products have been genetically modified (GM) this must be indicated in the label.

There are specific labelling requirements for various types of products. Some examples of specific legislation, regulations and standards include: 

1. The Foodstuffs Cosmetics and Disinfectants Act and its regulations, the Food Labelling Regulations (R146), and the Regulations Relating to Foodstuffs for Infants and Young Children R991, setting out specific labelling requirements for various types of foodstuffs; 

2. The Agricultural Products and Standards Act and its regulations, which govern the labelling of agricultural products;

3. The Liquor Act and Liquor Products Act, setting out requirements for the labelling of alcoholic beverages;

4. The South African Bureau of Standards, who have formulated a number of labeling standards which are industry specific, setting out the quality or standards specification marking for different products.



Imported product should comply with quality or standards specification marking, set by The South African Bureau of Standards (SABS), a specialized agency of the Department of Trade and Industry. The package itself has to be  made from natural materials and fibers must be accompanied by an official certificate stating that the material has been fumigated.

The pictures and/or diagrams as well as the product description and the rules of use have to be written in English.



Certain items require product certification:

- electrical products need to receive Electromagnetic Interference (EMI) certification; 

- all medicines must be certified by the Medicines Control Council (MCC);


- electro-medical products, such as x-ray devices, need certification from the Radiation Control Council, a directorate of the Department of Health; 


Some foreign companies have significant experienced delays in system certification – this is generally seen due to capacity issues at the SABS. In the case of ICT companies, this is has been a business inhibitor due to the rapidly changing requirements of end-users, as well as the short life-cycle of certain technologies. 


The following is a list of organizations involved in accreditation in South Africa:

- South African National Accreditation System (SANAS) – Organization that awards official recognition to laboratories, certification bodies, inspection bodies, proficiency testing scheme providers, and good laboratory practice (GLP) test facilities that possess the capability to carry out certain tasks.  Electronic equipment must be tested at labs accredited by SANAS.  


- International Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation (ILAC) – International body that determines whether laboratories are able to perform specific tasks.


- International Accreditation Forum (IAF) – Accreditation organization whose members are required to maintain high standards when accrediting companies.




The South African Bureau of Standards

Tel:  +27 (0)12 428 7911; Fax:  +27 (0)12 344 1568



National Department of Agriculture (NDA)

Tel:  +27 (0)12 319 6001; Fax:  +27 (0)12 325 7394 


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