Haggis imports 'would help tackle US obesity'

haggis Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Scots around the world - apart from the US - will eat haggis to celebrate Burns Night on 25 January

A Conservative peer has called for the US import ban on haggis to be lifted by suggesting that it may help America tackle its obesity problem.

The import of foods containing animal lungs is banned by the US Food and Drug Administration.

Lord McColl of Dulwich told peers that 24 million American Scots were being denied "this wholesome food".

He claimed haggis "satisfied hunger very much more than the junk food which Americans consume".

The surgeon and former shadow health minister, who was also a parliamentary aide to former Prime Minister Sir John Major, claimed that haggis consumption would help deal with the "obesity epidemic" in the US.

But the Labour peer and professor, Lord Winston, disagreed and said he was "surprised" by Lord McColl's remarks "given the questionable issue about haggis" - which he said he found "revolting".

Lord Winston also suggested that if haggis could deal with obesity then "maybe we should be promoting it a little bit in Glasgow".

The comments come as Prime Minister David Cameron begins two days of talks with President Obama in Washington. Peers urged the prime minister to put haggis on the menu for discussion.

The Liberal Democrat Lord Purvis described the ban as "ridiculous" and urged Mr Cameron to have "a private word with the president to make sure this ban is now lifted".

The food minister, Lord de Mauley, said he could not guarantee a rapid resolution, but said the EU and UK government were working to get import bans lifted by the US.

Tory peer Lord Forsyth suggested that the UK government could send a special envoy to the US - and joked that the former First Minister Alex Salmond was looking for a job.

Authentic Scottish haggis has been banned in the US since 1971, when the US Department of Agriculture first took a dim view of one of its key ingredients - sheep's lung.

The ban means those in the US who want to celebrate Scotland's national bard Robert Burns in the traditional manner on 25 January are compelled to improvise.

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