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Sunday, 25 August, 2002, 17:56 GMT 18:56 UK
Bags of trouble over haggis recipe
Haggis on plate
The FSA wants to stop the use of sheep's intestines
Plans by the food safety watchdog to alter a recipe for haggis have provoked fierce opposition in Scotland.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) said it wants to stop the use of sheep intestines as the 'bag' for the traditional Scottish dish because of the possible risk of BSE.

The FSA said it was reacting to concerns after it emerged that sheep have consumed the same feed as that which was responsible for giving cattle BSE.


Sheep intestines are an important element of haggis and there is no way we will stop eating it

David Burns, Burns aficionado
It has asked the European Commission to ban the use of sheep intestines, which are used to make larger portions of the Scottish delicacy.

The recipe for haggis varies but it can be made using a sheep's stomach bag which holds a mix of sheep's liver, heart and lung; oatmeal; suet; stock; onions and spices.

An FSA spokesman said the risk posed by eating the animal's intestines was "theoretical".

He said: "Experts have revealed that it is possible for sheep to be infected with BSE, but there is no proof that this has actually happened.

"Theoretically they could have BSE, and their intestines is the place where the BSE would develop, for this reason we would advise people not to eat haggis which includes the intestines."

Haggis
The Haggis was immortalised by Robert Burns
However, the move has been criticised by political parties and fans of the bard Robbie Burns, who immortalised the haggis in his work.

The Scottish National Party said the measure was "officialdom gone mad".

A spokesman said: "This is quite simply completely mad.

"Haggis is known the world over as a symbol of Scotland and is a dish we are proud of.

"To ban the use of sheep intestines, which are still a common ingredient, would be ludicrous."

David Smith, honorary secretary of the Robert Burns Howff Club, said he would be "appalled" if the ban was passed by the European Commission.

Mock heroic

His club regularly meets in the Globe Inn in Dumfries, which Burns frequented when in the area, to celebrate the poet's work.

Mr Smith said: "It is with great pride that Scots in the UK and abroad gather every 25 January to celebrate Burns' life.

"It would be ridiculous of we had to alter the way haggis is made because of this.

"Sheep intestines are an important element of haggis and there is no way we will stop eating it. Any different type of casing would just not be the same."

Burns honoured the haggis with his mock-heroic address to the haggis which celebrated the "great chieftain o' the puddin-race".

The FSA said it believed the ban would only affect traditional sausage casings which are still used by butchers across the UK.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Clare Harkey
"Haggis fans are outraged"
SEAC Public Interest Representative Harriet Kimbell
"If the Food Standards Agency identifies an area where there is a potential risk it tries to minimise it"
See also:

23 May 01 | Scotland
02 Feb 99 | E-cyclopedia
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