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United States: Haggis Ban

Volume 758: debated on Thursday 15 January 2015


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to persuade the United States to lift its ban on the import of haggis.

My Lords, the United States Food and Drug Administration does not allow animal lungs in products for human consumption. My right honourable friend the former Secretary of State Owen Paterson lobbied the US authorities during his visit in the summer, and we continue to encourage them to adjust their ban on haggis containing sheep lungs as part of the wider European Union negotiations on lifting the transmissible spongiform encephalopathy restrictions on EU lamb.

I thank the noble Lord for his usual courteous and informative reply. Is he aware that the United States Government are depriving 24 million American Scots of this wholesome food, which satisfies hunger very much more than the junk food the Americans consume? It would help to deal with the greatest epidemic they have—the obesity epidemic, which is killing millions, costing billions of dollars, and for which the cure is free. Will the Minister encourage the Government to redouble their efforts to persuade the American Government to have much freer trade and lift the 1971 ban on the wholesome haggis?

Well, my Lords, there is quite a lot in that. Perhaps it would help if I explained that two hurdles are involved in what the noble Lord proposes. We have to get over, first, the US restrictions on the import of lamb. We are working with the US authorities towards achieving approval to lift those restrictions with, I think, good prospects. Secondly, there is the US’s unwillingness to recognise animal lungs as an acceptable foodstuff. In this regard the most promising avenue in the short term is the production of haggis omitting the inclusion of lung—and the Scottish Government recognise this.

My Lords, I appreciate that not everyone fully understands the haggis. Once for a Burns supper in Germany, Burns’s,

“Great chieftain o’ the puddin-race!”,

was translated into German and then retranslated back as, “Mighty Führer of the sausage people”. Will the Minister make sure that this ridiculous ban comes to an end? If it is not too late, I see that the Prime Minister is with President Obama today, so can my noble friend send an urgent message to make sure that this visit is a triumph by having a private word with the President to make sure that the ban is now lifted?

Unfortunately, I cannot guarantee a rapid resolution of the problem, but I hope I have made clear that we are working extremely hard towards it. Promoting food and drink exports more generally is a key government priority. We are working hard to champion UK food and drink overseas with, I think, considerable success. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State is currently in China doing just that.

My Lords, I confess to being a little surprised that one of the most senior qualified medical practitioners in the Chamber is asking this Question, seeing that there is a questionable issue about haggis—which I, personally, find a revolting food. Would not charity be better at home? If haggis does indeed deal with obesity, perhaps we should promote it a little in Glasgow.

My Lords, what a good idea. As the noble Lord does not appear to like the taste of the,

“Great chieftain o’ the pudding-race”,

I recommend a large tot of whisky.

My Lords, given the seriousness of this matter, should the Government not consider appointing a special envoy with energy and imagination to go to the United States and stay there until this matter is resolved? Could I suggest that Alex Salmond is currently looking for work?

My Lords, I was going to say that it is a question of priorities, but that is an eminently sensible suggestion.