OWEN PATERSON, the Environment Secretary will meet with Tom Vilsack, US Agriculture Secretary today to discuss whether America will lift its ban on importing Scottish haggis.
The consumption of sheep lung – a key ingredient in haggis – has been prohibited by the US food standards agency since 1971, while the import of all British lamb has been banned since 1989 following the BSE crisis. However, if senior American officials were to end the ban, a deal could be made which would be worth millions to Scottish producers.
The haggis market is already worth an estimated £15m in the UK and could be worth far more in the US due to the popularity of Scottish heritage in the country, Paterson said.
He continued to say: “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.”
“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.”
Scotland’s Food Secretary Richard Lochhead added: “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 visit to the US comes as Scottish beef is set to return to menus across America for the first time in 20 years.
During his visit, Paterson will also promote British food and drink products at the Summer Fancy Food Show in New York, where brands like Walkers’ Shortbread have made inroads into the American specialist food market, which is worth an estimated 85 billion US dollars (£49.9 billion) a year.