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Can haggis producers beat the American ban?

Notoriously seen as an American outlaw, the haggis has been banned in the United States for 45 years.

Published: November 9, 2015
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But plans to 'tweak' the age old recipe could mean that Scottish producers would be able to side-step the ban and tap into a market potentially worth millions.

The product was initially deemed illegal in 1971 by the US Food and Drug Association, due to the use of sheep's lungs as a key ingredient.

Macsween are a third-generation family butchers, who have been producing haggis since 1951. Managing Director James Macsween explained that they believe there's a market across the pond for their produce:

"Lifting the US ban on haggis is a massive opportunity for the industry, especially Macsween of Edinburgh.
There are 30 million Scottish Americans.”

On whether they would be willing to alter their recipe in order to side-step the FDA's banned food list, Macsween said they were open to the idea:

"Yes, reformulation is a matter of course. We have already started work on this and have made a haggis that is just as tasty without using lung meat, using the FDA approved list of offals.”

“If they allowed us to export, we have plans to export Macsween haggis to the US - if there was a change in the current situation by the FDA. We can’t see this happening any sooner than mid to late 2016. ”

Scottish Food Secretary Richard Lochhead is currently taking part in a six-day tour of the USA and Canada, looking to whet the appetite for Scottish produce.

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It is believed that the MSP will be using his time in Washington D.C to persuade key figures in retail, imports and Government that the haggis ban should be overturned.

"Promoting Scotland’s larder is high on my agenda during this trip to North America." explained Lochhead.

"There are tens of millions of Americans who claim to have Scottish ancestry and want to enjoy Scotland’s national dish, so I’ll be using this opportunity to speak to the relevant US authorities about how we can get the ban lifted on importing haggis to the US, which is a massive market for us.

“The use of animal lungs in food has been banned in the US since 1971, so I’m asking our haggis producers here in Scotland to consider reformulating the recipe to meet US standards, which I believe they will be happy to do, and I want to present that option to the US authorities.

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"It will still look like a haggis and it will still taste like a haggis, and if this is given the green light it would open up a massive market for Scottish producers, allow Americans to enjoy a bit of Scottish heritage that is as close to the real thing as possible, create new jobs back here in Scotland and be worth millions of pounds to the Scottish economy.”

Previous attempts to lobby the American government on this issue proved unsuccessful. President George W. Bush was asked about the Scottish national delicacy in 2005, at G8 Summit in Gleneagles, to which he told The Times:

"Generally, on your birthday, my mother used to say: 'What do you want to eat?' and I don't ever remember saying: 'Haggis, mom.'"

This uneasy attitude is pervasive in plenty of North Americans when it comes to the sheep's pluck pudding - however, the Government is confident that it could be an export market worth millions to Scotland's vast diaspora.

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