Jul 03, 2014 - 8:30am

UK to US: Axe the Haggis Ban in Trade Agreement


There are no shortages of stories on this blog hailing the potential benefits of a trade agreement between the U.S. and the European Union. It would boost exports. It would protect investors. It would help small businesses reach new markets. It would create 50 million jobs on both sides of the Atlantic.

And, it could bring us a heaping helping of that Scottish sensation: haggis.

According to the BBC:

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…

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 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.

For those not in the know, the fine folks with questionable palates at Food Republic describe haggis and the reason for the 43-year-ban:

Simple put, haggis is oats, onions, suet and sheep’s “pluck” (lungs, liver and heart), sewn into a sheep’s stomach and boiled. It’s typically served with neeps and tatties (that would be Scottish for rutabaga and potato). This all sounds a little Game of Thrones, we realize. But it is actually really delicious — wonderfully gamey like North African merguez, but with a unique texture that is almost pudding-like.

Though here’s the thing about haggis. As of this writing, you have to travel to Scotland to actually eat the authentic stuff. Why? Because the United States has banned haggis from being imported to our shores. The consumption of sheep lung, a key ingredient, has been banned in the US since 1971 — while all British lamb has been banned since 1989 following the mad cow disease outbreak.

The Scots see a huge market potential in shipping their awful offal to the United States. There are as many Scottish people living in North America as in Scotland, with censuses in the United States and Canada identifying around five million people claiming Scottish ancestry, according to the Telegraph.

And they seem to think American’s would like the delicacy as well. Alan Pirie, of award-winning haggis makers, James Pirie & Son, from Newtyle, Angus, told DeadlineNews that:  

[H]is firm was losing out financially because of the export ban. “Americans love haggis when they try it,” he said. “I just had a customer in for haggis. She had Americans staying with her and they wanted haggis for dinner.”

I’ve tried haggis, and I wouldn’t say I “loved” it, exactly. But I do love bilateral trade agreements. And, as Professor Hugh Pennington noted in the above article, maybe Americans shouldn’t be throwing stones [or, rather, questionable meat products] at other countries.

Professor Hugh Pennington, one of the UK’s most eminent food safety experts, said last night he was baffled by the claim sheep lung makes haggis inedible. He said: “It is hard to see what their arguments are. They are quite keen on offal foods and down south they eat the most bizarre things. There is nothing on a pig that isn’t eaten except the squeal.”

Touche, Professor Pennington.

Here are 11 foods and drinks banned in the United States

About the Author

About the Author

Sheryll Poe is a former senior writer at the U.S. Chamber, who covered public policies affecting businesses including the three "T's" - transportation, trade and taxes.