Haggis inedible says US Government


SCOTLAND’S national dish has been branded “inedible” by the US government.

An email from food safety officials states that the key haggis ingredient of sheep lung is unfit for human consumption.

The damning verdict on Scotland’s national dish, revealed on the eve of Burns Night, means potentially lucrative haggis exports to America are likely to be off the menu for ever.

And expat Scots in the States will have to choose between eating inferior homemade haggis, going without, and risking arrest by smuggling the genuine article.

In Scotland, the claim that haggis is “inedible” has caused consternation among politicians, food safety experts and butchers.

Scottish haggis makers are refusing to remove sheep lung, saying it makes up around 10% of the dish and is essential for the flavour.

Haggis imports to the US were banned more than two decades ago amid the scare over BSE-infected meat from Europe.

Last year, the US said it was reviewing the ban, leading to widespread hope that haggis exports to the States could resume.

But this newspaper has now established that the haggis ban is likely to be permanent.

Joelle Hayden, of the US Department of Agriculture, said in an email on January 12 that separate regulations from the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) “determine sheep lungs to be inedible and, therefore, cannot be utilized for human consumption”.

She added that even if the BSE ban is lifted, “the FSIS rule would prohibit the U.S. production and imports of Haggis containing sheep lungs”.

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.”

He added: “Haggis is cooked extensively so any bacteria should be killed off, and there should not be any parasites or toxins. If you rule those things out you are left with a cultural thing.

“Lamb and mutton have never been eaten on any scale in the US. But that’s not a good argument for promoting public health.”

Catherine Stihler, a Member of the European Parliament for Scotland, campaigned last year to have the haggis ban lifted.

She has written to traditional haggis makers asking if it is possible to remove sheep lung from haggis. “They said it is part of our recipe,” she said.

Ms Stihler claimed the ban could be a protection issue to do with scraffle, a US dish made of “pig parts” and cornmeal which is poured into brick-sized molds to solidify.

She said: “Apparently, it is pretty like haggis. This may be a competition issue. I will be writing to the US Ambassador in London, asking him to look at the issue.”

Alan Pirie, of award-winning haggis makers, James Pirie & Son, from Newtyle, Angus, said removing sheep lung was unthinkable.

“It is essential for that lamby flavour,” he said. “It is absolutely offensive for the Americans to say haggis is inedible. That’s absolute nonsense. Haggis is very nourishing, especially at this time of the year.”

The butcher said his 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.”

The Scottish government insisted it was still fighting to have the ban overturned. Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead said US officials had been invited to Scotland “to see the high standards we have in our food industry”.

He said: “Scotland’s produce is amongst the best in the world and I’ve asked U.S. Department of Agriculture officials to come here to see for themselves the high standards we have in animal health and processing. This will help them realise that our haggis is produced to the highest standards and that it’s time to allow imports to resume.”


  1. Frankly the idea of Haggis disgusts me, why would anyone want to eat offal, you can’t tell what it is you’re eating, it could be any part or parts of the animal. Why can’t Haggis at least be made with mined prime cuts instead? I wouldn’t advise anyone to eat Mutton/Lamb or Beef either, both sometimes carry prion diseases such as BSE and Scrapie which have not been entirely eliminated from the food chain anywhere in the world and can cause CJD in humans.

    • The problem there is that the prime cuts are very expensive, also what you would be describing there is quality mince, not haggis.

      Haggis is cheap, damn tasty, and very filling and nourishing

      The whole point of eating offal is that it is going to be disposed of anyway, and is perfectly edible.

      Also, I have to ask you, even if you think it is disgusting, should it be banned?

      I think it is quite hypocritical of the US government to ban this particular food source, yet allows all manner of stuff that is significantly worse.

      • “Haggis is cheap, damn tasty, and very filling and nourishing” As and American who has eaten the “real stuff” I couldn’t agree more. Now if I could only figure out how to get smuggled in to the US I would be very happy.

  2. I cant understand how you can say something is disgusting if you have never tried it. I love haggis and eat it a couple of times a month.
    Why dont you try reading the ingredients on most of the processed food substances that you buy. This way you can see all the unhealthy chemicals you put in your body.

  3. I am an American, and as such am not used to eating foods like haggis. -Actually, I have never had haggis and I do not plan on trying it any time soon. This being said, I disagree with the U.S. government butting in on what is considered to be edible. If there is an ethnic foodstuff that cannot be proven to be shown to be a public nuisance and if proper safeguards are used to prevent CJD and Mad Cow, then why ban? We are a country that was founded on the principal of personal freedom, but ever increasing bureaucracy is taking a toll.

  4. In the majority of the world, offal is a delicacy and, as it is mostly well cooked, is far less a health risk than the refined carbs in the average American fast food. If you want to be trendy and healthy go high protein low carb. Eat offal. I do.

  5. I love the idea that the American government see eating sheep lungs as too dangerous so ban it, while still allowing you to walk down the street and buy a fully automatic assault rifle, which it seems is far less dangerous.

    • Actually you need a specialized license to buy a fully automatic rifle which is rarely approved. Your run of the mill gun owner cannot get fully automatic weapons of any kind. When you say fully automatic, you are really talking about machine guns, which are heavily regulated.

      I will agree however that I have yet to find any reasoning behind the sheep’s lung ban. It almost seems as if someone decided that it was not to their taste and so forbid anyone else from availing themselves of it. I have been to Scotland recently and consumed haggis several times in the week or so that I was there. To my knowledge I have not contracted any odd diseases or parasites and found it quite tasty to boot.

  6. I’ve just eaten some Haggis for breakfast (yes really!), and I loved it… and I’m a Sassenach!
    Keep Scotland British – we need you!!

  7. This is clearly protectionism masquerading as a public health issue. Lungs are absolutely beautiful. If you’ve never had them you have no idea what you are missing out on. Very much like liver except much smoother and softer. I had to speak to my butcher and he said they usually throw them away but he saved them for me and let me have them for free!

  8. The stomach has vitamin C, the liver vitamin A, the lung gives it texture, the oats have fiber, the onions have nitrates. I munched on real Haggis only 3 times during my hike ’round Inverness during a gray November; it fortifies ya. The big turn-off is that Alpo® served to people at Highland games in the States.

  9. Guys,
    cannot believe what im reading in some of your posts – Haggis is 100% safe and very tasty, whilst i am biased being Scotish my english wife and Kids love it and havent developed any strange ailments, three eyes or retardation – having been to the US many times and see the rubbish you guys eat you still feel have the cheek to feel threatened by bloody haggis – get out and experience the real world and try some culture!!!!

    • Yes, I’m living in a cultural vacuum all because I haven’t tried haggis. Too bad nothing else I’ve done counts towards culture.

  10. I love haggis and eat it about 10 days a month and despite the fact I doesn’t have sheep lung I love it. I will ask my butcher for some sheep lung if he has it. The gov. Cannot tell us that lung is “inedible” when people have eaten it for thousands of years to no I’ll effect. By the way scrapie/bse is non zoonotic (cannot be passed to humans)

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