Is It Time For the US to Legalize Scottish Haggis?

The lung meat debate rages on

Scottish haggis at a Robbie Burns Day celebration in Canada.
Paul Irish/Toronto Star via Getty Images

Odds are good that if you’ve ever sought out Scottish cuisine, you’ve seen haggis on the menu. If you ordered it, what you actually consumed might be a bit different depending on where you were dining. As it turns out, the traditional recipe for Scottish haggis has been illegal in the United States for over 50 years. Why? It has to do with the fact that the recipe contains meat from the lung of a sheep — and the U.S. has prohibited lung meat since 1971. Meaning that if you’ve dined on haggis made in the U.S., you’ve dined on something slightly different than the dish in its country of origin.

That might be on the verge of changing, however. Dr. Jonathan Reisman, a medical doctor and acclaimed author, recently submitted a petition to the U.S.D.A. asking the agency to “remove the prohibition on the use of livestock lungs for human food.”

Reisman has made a few impassioned arguments in favor of it, writing in the New York Times that certain traditional dishes — haggis and lungen stew among them — can no longer be made in the U.S. as a result of the 1971 ban.

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The rationale for the ban centers around the question of whether or not lung meat can potentially contain toxic microorganisms. Reisman argued that this is no more a concern than it is for other types of meat, telling Slate that “[o]ur lungs clean themselves.” And it’s worth pointing out, as Slate’s article does, that Scotland has its own standards for lung meat — ones that could likely be adapted for use on this side of the Atlantic.

How this petition will fare remains to be seen; at present, it’s still open for comments. But the future of haggis in the U.S. — along with a number of other dishes — could be in the balance.


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