Boisdale chief executive joins campaign to overturn US haggis ban

23 January 2015 by
Boisdale chief executive joins campaign to overturn US haggis ban

Ranald McDonald, the owner of London-based Scottish-style restaurant group Boisdale, has joined a campaign to overturn the US ban on haggis.

The ongoing campaign also has the support of the UK Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA); haggis manufacturers Macsween; and House of Lords member Lord Ian McColl of Dulwich, who raised the issue in the House on 15 January.

Haggis has been banned in the US since 1971 amid apparent concerns over its safety.

Speaking to The Caterer, McDonald has argued that haggis is perfectly safe to eat, and claimed that allowing US citizens to eat the delicacy could push up employment and trade in the dish, not just in the USA but also in Scotland.

It would also undercut the current alleged black market, he said.

He told The Caterer: "The really big point is that this small, relatively cottage industry could be worth £20m-plus in America in future. It's a great eating product, and this ban is denying Scotland and Britain a lot of revenue. There are people who want it in America, and people who don't know they want it as yet. It could be a big market."

The 2009 US Community Census Survey reportedly found that 6.85 million Americans identified as having solely Scottish ancestry, and that almost 28 million reported Scottish in combination with another nationality.

The group is also set to host a Macallan Burn's Night Dinner at Boisdale Canary Wharf tomorrow (24 January).

Explaining why Boisdale was supporting the issue, McDonald said: "We're a Scottish restaurant, and we sell four million tonnes of haggis a year. It's our bestselling dish in all our restaurants, and is delicious and nutritious. As a Scottish embassy of sorts, Boisdale has the ability to reach out to people. It's a fun cause, it doesn't do us any harm to be involved, and there's a real reason to support it."

He added: "It's a cultural metaphor for the heritage of 20 million people. It's a tiny catalyst for driving this export market. It's a good thing."

James Macsween, owner and joint managing director of haggis manufacturer Macsween, added that the chance to export haggis to the US would be a fantastic opportunity, and that he would be happy to show the Food and Drug Administration [FDA] and Canadian Food Inspection Agency [CFIA] that haggis would be a viable, safe product.

He said: "There is huge curiosity for haggis and all things Scottish [in the American market], and we would like to be able to provide Americans with authentic haggis. We are delighted that progress is being made, but regret how long the process is taking."

In the UK, DEFRA has also claimed that Elizabeth Truss MP, the secretary of state for environment, food and rural affairs, is keen to promote British food abroad and eager to open new export markets.

Its statement read: "The secretary of state is passionate about British food. Whether it's with our Melton Mowbray pork pies, Yorkshire Tea or the Mary Jane brew from the Ilkley Brewery…the government is continuing to work with the American authorities to help remove the ban so that our wonderful haggis, made to the traditional recipe, can be exported."

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