Food ban fight

Haggis Haggle

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In the first week of February, a member of the Scottish Parliament, Catherine Stihler, dropped by Washington, D.C. She was there to attend a National Prayer Breakfast and chat with American legislators about lifting the ban on importing Scotland's national dish, haggis.

In January the World Organization for Animal Health ruled that sheep's lungs—a key ingredient in the sausage-like treat, which is composed of offal and oats—do not convey a variant of mad cow disease. Since this was the rationale for the ban, which dates back to the late 1980s, Scottish Rural Affairs Minister Richard Lochhead asked U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to clarify and re-evaluate the U.S. embargo on haggis.

The timing of these developments couldn't have been better, since haggis is a part of the traditional late-January Burns Night supper, held in honor of the great Scottish poet Robert Burns. Burns famously wrote an ode to haggis, the "Great chieftain o' the puddin-race!" At the event, haggis is traditionally served with "bashed neeps" (turnip, swede, or rutabaga) and large helpings of whiskey.

For haggis lovers and Burns Night celebrants, an end to the ban would be welcome. "It was a silly ban which meant a lot of people have never tasted the real thing," Margaret Frost, of the Scottish American Society in Ohio, told the London Guardian. "We have had to put up with the U.S. version, which is made from beef and is bloody awful."

A review is under way, and while no official timeline has been set, haggis may soon be legal again for the 6 million Americans of Scottish descent, 5.99 million of whom will still refuse to touch the stuff. 

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