Student - October 30, 2008

SAUDIS TAKE A LOOK IN A DIFFERENT KITCHEN

The Saudi Arabian Food & Drug Authority was established in 2002, and now almost half of its employees are studying abroad. Among them is Veterinarian Doctor Nezar Aseeri, who is studying Food Safety in Wageningen and will be responsible for introducing new methods at home.

‘Saudi Arabia needs people who can do lab work and we also need specialists who can adequately analyze food safety issues and implement new screening methods’, says Nezar Aseeri. He is one of six employees of the Saudi Food & Drug Authority who are doing a major in Food Safety at the WUR. Next year twelve more colleagues will come to Wageningen for different majors.
The Saudi agency is investing a lot in a new generation of young professionals. ‘They care more about the young than about the older employees’, Aseeri puts it. The agency is ambitious and there is a lot to do. At the moment the Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs and the Ministry of Commerce are responsible for securing food safety, but in the near future the FDA will take over the reigns in this field. To make this viable, about 250 of the 650 employees are to follow courses abroad in different disciplines. The Saudis have selected from the best universities all over the world. And in the field of food safety, Wageningen was amongst the best in Europe.

Saudi Arabia is changing rapidly. ‘We need to know how we can explore scientific literature and how to apply the ideas in practice. Therefore I want do my thesis and internship here in Wageningen’, Aseeri explains. He graduated as Veterinary Doctor at the King Faisal university and got a scholarship to the USA to learn English. Back in his country, he applied to the Saudi FDA as a veterinarian, and they sent him to the Netherlands to get his Masters degree in Food Safety.

‘At home with friends and family we often discuss the differences with foreign countries, and where we can improve. Some Saudi teachers don’t encourage students to ask questions. And, for example, they don’t bother if you miss a practical. Here the teachers do care and they make an effort to ensure that you understand them. At first I had to get used to writing reports and using literature. This is still not common in Saudi Arabia, and that’s why the agency wants to get its employees to gain experience with different ideas.’

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