US haggis import ban 'could be lifted' under new rules

Haggis Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption Scottish haggis contains sheep's lung, which is banned in food products in the United States

Haggis could be back on the menu in the US by 2017, according to the Scottish government.

Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead has held meetings with the US Department of Agriculture in a bid to get a decades-old ban lifted.

Food products containing sheep lungs - a key ingredient in haggis - have been outlawed since 1971.

Mr Lochhead said he had a positive response, with new draft rules on imports set to be published next year.

Ahead of his trip to the US, the rural affairs secretary had suggested producers in Scotland were "up for tweaking the recipe" in order to get around the ban on imports.

But he vowed US customers would "still get as close as possible to the real thing".

Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption Many attempts have been made to persuade US officials to reverse the ban on haggis which has been in place for 44 years

Mr Lochhead had a series of meetings with Under Secretary Lisa Mensah and the US Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

He said: "I was pleased to hear from Under Secretary Mensah and the animal and plant health inspectorate service that they will publish the draft rules next year to pave the way for the return of Scotch lamb and haggis onto US plates.

"We know that around 10 million US citizens claim Scottish heritage so we have a ready-made market with them and with Scots at heart.

"Of course exports to the US will also be a real boost for producers and farmers and benefit our economy."

'Massive opportunity'

Rob Livesey, vice president of the National Farmers Union Scotland, travelled with Mr Lochhead to the US.

"The work done here in the past few days should speed the entry of Scottish beef and lamb onto the US market," he said.

"The opening of this market will be a real shot in the arm for our primary producers, who need every market opportunity available to give much-needed confidence to make positive breeding decisions now in anticipation of an upturn in demand for our top-quality product."

James Macsween, of leading Scottish butchers Macsween of Edinburgh, said: "We are very excited about the prospect of exporting haggis to the US within the next 24 months. It will be a massive opportunity for us and the industry."

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