The Real Reason Scottish Haggis Is Banned In The U.S.

Have you ever eaten haggis? If you're like most Americans, probably not. In fact, you may not even be entirely sure what it is — a 2003 poll of American tourists visiting Scotland reported in The Guardian found that 33 percent of those surveyed thought haggis was some type of animal. A strange beast indeed... the offal truth is, haggis is actually a foodstuff concocted of a sheep's stomach filled with that same (or a different) sheep's liver, heart, and lungs, as well as oatmeal, suet, stock, onions, and spices.

If this doesn't sound like something you'd eat, then chances are, you probably haven't been affected too badly by the U.S. ban on authentic Scottish haggis. According to CNN, Scottish haggis imports have been prohibited since 1971, due to the U.S. Department of Agriculture ruling that "livestock lungs shall not be saved for use as human food." Ok, so why are lungs banned, while the stomach, heart, liver, and all that other stuff are considered ok? 

According to Edward R. Blonz, Ph.D., a nutritional expert who sits on the board of the University of California's Berkeley Wellness, sheep's lungs can contain fluid from the stomach — fluid he calls "microbial-rich gunk." So it's kind of a food safety risk.

You can still get USDA-approved haggis

Should you still wish to consume some form of haggis — it is, after all, de rigueur for a proper celebration of Burns Night, as this holiday celebrates the Scottish poet who actually composed an ode to this most mysterious of meat products (via the Independent) — dinna fash yersel, as Robbie Burns might say (via The Scotsman, this phrase is the Scots version of "no worries, mate"). There are several different manufacturers who produce lung-free canned haggis for the U.S. market (because yes, there is such a thing), and you can purchase it from — where else? — Amazon.

If you're a real do-it-yourselfer, there's also the option of making your own haggis. Alton Brown's recipe calls for a sheep's stomach, liver, heart, and tongue, but no lungs. Although haggis fans (or at least non-detractors) describe the dish as tasting like a peppery kind of sausage with a somewhat crumbly texture, even Alton himself seems slightly dubious about eating it. The last step of his recipe, according to Food Network, is, "Serve with mashed potatoes, if you serve it at all," and the yield is given as, "Depends on how much you throw." Mmm, sounds like a ringing endorsement. 

Perhaps it's better to do as Berkeley Wellness suggests, and abstain altogether... strictly for health purposes, of course.