CAIRO: The Egyptian Organization for Standardization and Quality announced that it agreed with the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) to place international standards for traditional/local Egyptian dishes and give it a patent in order to export them to international markets with certified standards.
“Having a patent will prevent any country from reproducing the dishes and labeling them as their own,” said Hany Barakat, head of the Egyptian Organization for Standardization and Quality, in a statement.
“This move has come late as some countries are already producing Egyptian dishes without getting back to us and selling them internationally despite of our intellectual property rights over them,” he explained, citing Denmark and its production of Damietta Cheese.
The Egyptian Organization for Standardization and Quality is body responsible for standardization activities, quality and industrial metrology aiming at increasing the competitiveness of the Egyptian products in the international and regional markets while protecting consumers and the environment.
The patents will start with famous Egyptian dishes such as molasses and halva.
The koshary, a popular dish made up of lentils, macaroni, rice and chickpeas, will also be among the first dishes to be patented.
“I have been working in this koshary shop for years and during this time I have seen fellow Arabs, Europeans, Americans, Indians and every other nationality you can think of eat it and love it,” said Mohamed Abdou, who works at Koshary Hind, which started out as a small shop and expanded into a nationwide chain.
“It is only fair that we are attributed with it,” he continued, “Imagine if other countries around the world set up koshary restaurants, it will be hard to determine where this dish originated.”
Other popular foods to be patented are cottage cheese, the ‘feteer’ or pie, and the falafel made with fava beans.
Falafel is already causing controversy between Israelis and Palestinians as each party is claiming it to be part of their national dishes. However, the falafel made out of fava beans, or fuul, is known to be an Egyptian creation.
What makes up the Egyptian cuisine has been a question often raised. Malak Rouchdy, assistant professor of sociology at the American University in Cairo, has explored the subject in her article “Food Recipes and the Kitchen Space: The Construction of Social Identities and New Frontiers."
"I started to ask myself, ‘what is Egyptian food?’ Molokheya also exists in Sudan, taameya (or falafel) is served all over the region and fuul is found worldwide," said Rouchdy in a statement. "Everyone knows Lebanese dishes, Syrian food, Turkish pastries, and we borrow from all over the region. But it’s as though food culture stopped at the borders. I want to know why, through the years, Egyptians haven’t developed a cuisine," she continued.
Egyptian households have also welcomed the decision. “When we sit with Syrians and Lebanese their dishes are known to everyone but when it comes to Egyptian dishes sometimes it’s ambiguous as some people may claim that a certain dish has been ‘Egyptianized’ but was not originally Egyptian,” explained Soraya Ahmed, a housewife.
“So now with international certificates no one can refute that,” she added.