ALSTEAD, N.H.—Last chance to get the lead out.
Small scale sugarmakers must have nearly all lead equipment out of the production process this season if they plan to sell their syrup to a bulk buyer. And all the rest of their lead equipmnet must be scrapped by October, the last wave of compliance with state of California regulators who sued syrup packers six years ago for not meeting stringent lead-free standards.
“The industry needs to be compliant,” said Ray Bonenberg of Mapleside Sugar Bush in Pembroke, Ont. and past-president of the International Maple Syrup Institute which has been helping educate producers on the issue.
Sugarmakers with 10,000 taps or less must get even the smallest piece of lead-laced equipment out of the sugarhouse if they plan to sell any syrup to a wholesale buyer this spring. [ MORE ]
MADISON, Wis.—The discharge water from reverse osmosis machines maple syrup makers use in Wisconsin will have to pass a test for them to keep making liquid gold.
A proposal requiring sugarmakers to obtain a state-issued permit for RO discharge will be reviewed for possible revisions before taking effect in February of 2021, said Michelle Balk, basin supervisor for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources in Spooner who is involved with the DNR’s waste water program for the northwest part of the state.
It’s the solvents in the water used to clean reverse osmosis machines the DNR wants to make sure doesn’t pose a threat to groundwater or lakes and streams when released onto the ground.
A public comment period on the proposal ends February 13. [ MORE ]
MONTPELIER, Vt.—Vermont regulators are targeting sugarhouses as their next jurisdiction of water protection rules.
“We will be going going around collecting data and finding out the levels of concentration coming out of the waste at sugarhouses,” said Patrick Fry, Agricultural Engineer, Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food, & Markets (VAAFM).
Fry said he won’t be writing the laws but will be making recommendations to the rule makers that do.
“I’m going to be talking about ways they can be alleviating concerns that I personally have,” Fry said. He was a featured speaker at the Vermont Maple Schools in January.
At issue is the so-called “waste” Fry says is coming out of the big-time sugarhouses in the state and making its way into major waterways like Lake Champlain, Lake Memphremagog, the Connecticut River, Lake Carmi and other water sources.
Fry claims that the biggest culprit is pure phosphorus from pan cleaners mixing in with the permeate discharge which then merges into a channel and makes its way directly into those water bodies. [ MORE ]
CONCORD, N.H.—The FDA may be getting “defriended” by sugarmakers.
Sugarmakers who registered their operations with the FDA, some of who did so as early as 2003, can unregister themselves if half or more of their gross sales is direct-to-consumer retail.
“You can cancel your food facility registration,” said Commander Joseph Frost of the U.S. Public Health Service, a branch of the FDA.
Frost was the keynote speaker at the North American Maple Syrup Council annual meeting in Concord, N.H. this fall and while there still seems to be some ambiguity in the new Food Safety Modernization Act’s effect on maple, Frost’s remarks put many at ease.
“If 50 percent of your money is from direct-to-consumer sales, you are exempt from FDA regulations,” Frost said, and repeated it several times in his remarks.
“So if I sell most of my syrup retail, I am totally exempt from everything?” asked Ron Wentzel, a sugarmaker from Hebron, Ct.
“If you build a sugar shack, but 50 percent of your money is from direct consumer sales, you are exempt from FDA regulations,” Frost repeated.
The confusing regulations imposed by the FDA on sugarhouses have been a source of anxiety for many sugarmakers, some even choosing to pull out of the commercial market rather than subject themselves to government regulation. Producers had until Sept. 17 to register online with the agency. [ MORE ]
COLUMBIA, Conn.—A new state law has sugarmakers in a panic and an effort is underway to convince the state legislature to rewrite it.
“It could be arbitrary,” said Mathew Wilkinson, a sugarmaker in Columbia, Conn. who is spearheading a campaign to convince the legislature to revise the state’s so-called “Cottage Food Law” to address concerns of maple.
As it stands now, the law sets up an inspection process for small scale sugarmakers making candy or cream in their home or sugarhouse kitchens. Advocates say this will benefit the industry by giving consumers confidence that they’re getting clean and safe products made in a wholesome foodmaking facility.
“It helps mom & pop operations,” Wilkinson said.
But the law does not address maple specifically and if taken literally, it could force all production, including syrupmaking, to occur in a state approved “kitchen” which in turn could mean that all sugarhouses will come under state inspection and could be forced to comply with regulations for kitchens. [ MORE ]
Sugarmakers who produce more than 50 percent of their crop for the bulk market need to comply with the new Food Safety Modernization Act regulations. The deadline to register with the FDA was Sept. 17.
But then what?
Kathy Hopkins of the University of Maine Cooperative Extension advises sugarmakers to have a good, well-documented Food Safety Plan and adhere to Current Good Manufacturing Practices (CGMP). FDA inspectors can inspect sugarhouses unannounced at any time.
"Protect yourself," she said during a seminar last winter. "If an FDA inspector makes a random visit and sees dust, dirt, peeling paint and no Food Safety Plan they can withdraw your exemption and force compliance with the FSMA. They're not there to make your life difficult. They're there to protect consumers."
If FDA shows up at your sugarhouse, common courtesy should prevail.
"Remember, be nice," Hopkins said. "You can more flies with honey than vinegar." [ MORE ]
DURHAM, N.H.—It’s deadline day.
Maple producers had a deadline of Sept. 17, to register with the FDA as part of the Food Safety Modernization Act.
“The FDA is saying that it is a prohibited act not to be in compliance with the rule,” said Heather Bryant, an extension agent with the University of New Hampshire who is working with producers in her state to get sugarmakers in accordance with the new law.
The rule applies to sugarmakers across the U.S.
Most sugarmakers had been informed that the deadline to comply was in November, but that was incorrect. [ MORE ]
WASHINGTON, D.C.—Proposed FDA regulations require that single ingredient foods such as maple syrup be required to declare the product contains “added sugars” even through there are none.
In new labeling laws, now under consideration, the FDA will make producers declare that syrup has up to 23 grams of “added sugars.”
This untrue statement could have a devastating impact on sales, industry officials say. [ MORE ]