On February 24, 2016

Maple flavor: real or fake?

Vermont Maple Sugar Makers’ Association leads the battle with letter to FDA

 The Vermont Maple Sugar Makers’ Association (VMSMA) was formed in 1893, and one early mission of the organization was to safeguard the quality and tradition of maple syrup in Vermont—the “official flavor” of Vermont.” In the past this has meant addressing inaccurately labeled maple syrup, whether adulterated with other sweeteners or falsely claiming its origin as Vermont. On Feb. 16, the challenge shifted to protect the designation of “maple” on food products.

Maple syrup sales have increased as more consumers choose maple for its macronutrient and mineral profile that is far superior to other sugars, its unique flavor, and the heritage associated with sugaring. As a result, more food products are using the word “maple” and associated imagery to convince consumers that the product has the same authenticity even when it uses absolutely no maple syrup. This dilutes the meaning of maple as it relates to food products and undermines the integrity and growth potential of Vermont’s maple syrup industry.

In a joint statement, Sen. Leahy, Sen. Sanders and Rep. Welch said: “Every product that is sold with a false or misleading claim of maple on the label deceives the consumer, erodes the well-earned reputation for quality of pure maple syrup, and steals income from maple producers in Vermont and across the Northeast. Consumers seek out pure maple syrup and are willing to pay the fair price for this superb and sustainably produced, highly nutritious and all natural sweetener. The FDA needs to act now to eliminate these misleading labels.”

The VMSMA is proud to stand with maple syrup producers in nine other states as well as the North American Maple Syrup Council and the International Maple Syrup Institute in sending a letter to the FDA requesting enforcement action of food products whose labeling incorrectly indicate the presence of maple syrup on product labels.

Consumer trends show a steadily increasing interest in ingredient awareness and desire for natural and pure ingredients. Consumers are being intentionally deceived by the misbranding of maple in non-maple containing food products. Many products are in direct violation of section 403 of the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FDCA) and the food labeling regulations in 21 CFR § 102.5, which requires that: “the common or usual name of a food shall include the percentage(s) of any characterizing ingredient(s) or component(s) when the proportion of such ingredient(s) or component(s) in the food has a material bearing on price or consumer acceptance or when the labeling or the appearance of the food may otherwise create an erroneous impression that such ingredient(s) or component(s) is present in an amount greater than is actually the case.”

Some of the companies listed in the letter as being in violation include Quaker Oats, Hood Ice Cream, Nature’s Path and MOM Brands Better Oats. These companies are capitalizing on the long established history and marketability of pure maple syrup as a healthier sugar option that also promotes sustainable preservation of the forest and is built on a tradition of hard-working Vermont farmers producing a superior and natural product. The letter sent to the FDA emphasizes that the list is a small sampling of evidence, pointing to a broad scope of companies also in violation of the law and stated regulations.

VMSMA is urging the FDA to take swift and comprehensive action to protect consumers from the rampant deception of “maple” mislabeling used in marketing food products, ultimately leading to maple syrup being added as an actual ingredient to all food products containing the word “maple.”

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