UK government bids to overturn US haggis ban

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

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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.

What is in a traditional haggis?

Haggis with whisky sauce
  • Sheep's stomach stuffed with diced sheep's liver, lungs and heart, oatmeal, onion, suet and seasoning
  • Vegetarian versions can be made with mushrooms or beans
  • Often served with neeps 'n' tatties - mashed swede and potatoes

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."

Start Quote

With almost nine million Americans claiming Scots ancestry, there is clearly an appetite in the US for haggis made to traditional recipes”

End Quote Richard Lochhead Scottish Food Secretary

"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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  • rate this

    Comment number 217.

    Some people like haggis and some people dont - which is fair enough; everyone is entittled to their own opinion ofcourse but disliking it on its ingredents alone isn't exactly a good base to ban it, ect I mean ever see how other meats like the hot dog are made and what they contain? If you dont like haggis - soloution simple... dont eat it

  • rate this

    Comment number 171.

    I am a fan of any sustainable food that uses all the parts of ethically raised animals. Haggis ticks all the boxes as nothing goes to waste. Half of US food import bans are protectionism and nothing more. Cheese in the US is awful as they banned blue cheeses and unpasteurized cheeses. Hence you get big companies selling homogenized yellow gunk that pretends to be cheese.

  • rate this

    Comment number 49.

    Typical America, the throw-away society.

    Lung and other offal may not sound palatable to many modern softies, but they were a part of most peoples diet just a couple of generations ago, they are tasty and tend to be full of minerals and vitamins and are relatively cheap.

    When minced with good seasoning, you can eat anything without having any clue what its origin is, as we see in sausages/donner

  • rate this

    Comment number 42.

    You always remember your first haggis. I can recall gagging a little, but then eating the whole lot very quickly, not least because Auntie Isla was standing over me looking angry and saying how long it had taken her to make it.
    I've not had haggis since then. And I've not been back to Auntie Isla's.

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    I like Haggis. I think the key to liking Haggis is to eat it before you know what it's made of, then by the time you find out, you don't care as it's really tasty.

    I knew beef was banned and lifting that ban is a big thing, I never knew Haggis was or in fact Lamb. I would imaging that lifting the ban on Lamb would open up the bigger market.


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