Maple syrup makers want feds to clamp down on 'misbranding'


Ever call out to a sassy teenager whose response was "That's my name, don't wear it out"?

Well – in a less sassy way – maple syrup producers are asking federal regulators to protect the term "maple" from getting worn out.

The Minnesota Maple Syrup Producers Association and similar groups from eight other states have written to the Food and Drug Administration protesting foods that use maple on the label but contain no actual maple syrup.

Their letter gives nine examples of such products and says such misbranding deceives consumers and undercuts food companies that really are paying to use maple syrup as a "premium sweetener." The industry groups want the FDA to investigate.

Roger Brown of the Vermont Maple Sugar Makers Association tells the Associated Press: "...if you’re going to call it a maple thing, put enough maple in it that it’s a maple product and that it’s not a corn syrup product that has some minuscule amount of syrup in it.’’

CBC News says 80 percent of the world's maple syrup comes from Canada, a country with a strict law mandating that maple products "shall consist entirely of the product obtained directly or indirectly from maple sap."

According to the Associated Press, an FDA official said the agency is reviewing the letter from the industry groups and will respond to them directly.

Meanwhile, the Department of Natural Resources says the relatively mild winter means the sap in Minnesota's maples will start running soon. The start of maple syrup season in the state can range from late February to mid-April, but the DNR says producers can start setting their taps soon, especially in southern Minnesota.

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Maple trees this year didn't see the usual fluctuations from warm days to freezing nights that cause the sap to run. And now with buds appearing, "sap production's over," says one producer who harvested about a quarter of what he usually collects.

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The President of the Minnesota Maple Syrup Producers Association told MPR he typically collects about 250 gallons of syrup near Fergus Falls. So far this spring, he hasn't collected any sap. Trees only produce it when there's a freeze-thaw cycle.