Scotland business

UK government bids to overturn US haggis ban

Image caption Haggis imports have been outlawed in the US for more than 40 years

The UK government is making a fresh bid to overturn a decades-long US import ban on traditional Scottish haggis.

Environment Secretary Owen Paterson will raise the issue with senior officials from the Obama administration this week.

Scottish producers had asked Mr Paterson to take action when he visited the Royal Highland Show in Edinburgh earlier this month.

Haggis imports have been outlawed in the US since 1971.

The ban was put in place because the country's food standards agency prohibits sheep lungs - one of the key ingredients of haggis - in food products.

The US visit comes as Scotch Beef is set to make a return to menus in America for the first time in almost 20 years.

It follows a move by US officials to reopen the American market to EU beef and other bovine products, following a ban put in place in the 1990s over concerns that BSE could infect the human food chain.

Mr Paterson's visit is the latest attempt by British politicians to get haggis back on American menus.

Several years ago, Scottish Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead raised the issue with the US, but the ban remained in place.

Mr Paterson will hold talks with his US opposite number, Tom Vilsack, in Washington on Monday, in an attempt to open up a market which is potentially worth millions of pounds to Scottish producers.

The haggis market is already worth about £15m in the UK alone.

'Wonderful national dish'

Mr Paterson said: "I share many haggis producers' disappointment that American diners are currently unable to enjoy the taste of Scotland's wonderful national dish in their own country.

"I am meeting my US counterpart today to discuss how we can begin exporting it, particularly as so many Americans enjoy celebrating their Scottish heritage."

"This government has opened many markets for our home-grown food and drink businesses.

"I will continue to do everything I can to boost exports of everything from whisky to haggis to support Scotland's farmers and rural economy."

During his visit, Mr Paterson will also ask for Scottish lamb to be allowed back into America, following a ban imposed in 1989.

The UK government said it hoped the ban could be lifted as part of an EU-US trade deal, known as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, which is currently being negotiated.

Responding to Mr Paterson's visit to the US, Scottish Food Secretary Richard Lochhead said: "With almost nine million Americans claiming Scots ancestry, there is clearly an appetite in the US for haggis made to traditional recipes.

"We look forward to the USA resuming imports of Scotch Beef and are optimistic that this will pave the way for the resumption of imports of other iconic Scottish products such as haggis and Scotch Lamb.

"The US has long been a top priority market for the Scottish food and drink sector.

"I have been pushing for this development for years - therefore I welcome Owen Paterson's efforts to open up this lucrative market, even if it's taken the forthcoming referendum to get his attention."

While in the US, Mr Paterson will also promote British food and drink products at the Summer Fancy Food Show in New York, where brands like Walkers Shortbread have entered the American specialist food market.

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