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Food Safety & Gov't Regulations

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Vt. inspectors researching pan cleaner runoff

Peter Gregg | March 26, 2019

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 ]

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FDA official calms fears about inspections

Peter Gregg | January 25, 2019

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 ]

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Connecticut sugarmakers fighting new food law

Peter Gregg | January 25, 2019

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 ]

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Expert advice on how to comply with FDA regs

Paul Post, Peter Gregg | October 1, 2018

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 ]

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Deadline passes for FDA registration

Peter Gregg | September 17, 2018

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 ]

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URGENT: FDA looking to tarnish pure maple image

Peter Gregg | June 1, 2018

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 ]

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Sugarmakers deal with compliance conundrum

Paul Post | Nov. 11, 2017

A prominent Connecticut maple producer has spent considerable time and money bringing his sugarhouse into compliance with new Food Safety Modernization Act standards.

The federal bill was passed in 2011 and took effect in November 2015. The largest operations had to comply by last November, while mid- and small-sized businesses have until this fall or November 2018, respectively. MORE ]

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Food & Drug Admin. puts the squeeze on maple registration 

Paul Post | Nov. 10, 2017

The clock is ticking for maple producers throughout the U.S. who must comply with new Food Safety Modernization Act regulations.

The section of the 2011 bill that affects maple producers, called the Preventive Controls Rule, took effect in November 2015. The largest operations had to comply by last November, while mid- and small-sized businesses have until this fall or November 2018, respectively. MORE ]