HIGHGATE, Vt.—Get out your wrenches.
The development of a new sugarhouse certification program in Vermont has uncovered a possible new food safety issue for the whole industry—the use of non food grade PVC pipe.
“I don’t think anybody knew this was a problem,” said Arnie Piper, vice chairman of the Vermont Maple Sugar Makers Association, who is spearheading a voluntary first-of-its-kind state certification program that is expected to launch in the near future.
At issue is some PVC used in sugarhouses and sold by plumbing supply houses not stamped as food grade but instead intended for drainage, waste and venting.
“The bad stuff is gonna say 'dwv,'” Piper said.
David Tremblay, who is on staff for the VMSMA to run the certification program, performed 12 “mock inspections” of sugarhouses in Vermont last season and found a notable amount of the questionable PVC.
Non food-grade pipe could have harmful chemicals like bisphenol A and lead. Also a problem is sanitation.
“Drain waste vent does not have cleanablity,” Tremblay said.
Producers are going to get some leeway over the first several years of the certification program on the PVC since most plumbing supply houses in Vermont are not carrying food grade pipe, Piper said.
“We will certify you with waste PVC for the next two years,” Piper said. “We cant expect sugarmakers to meet a standard they cant make.”
Sugarmaker Jason Gagne of Highgate, Vt. and a VMSMA board member involved in the certification program said a check of his own sugarhouse found some non-food grade pipe.
He was already at work at changing it out.
“Look at the stamps on your plumbing to see what you do have already,” Gagne said. “My gut feeling is you might already have some of it.”
Gagne said sugarmakers should look for the letters PW, which stands for potable water.
Sugarmakers should also look for NSF 51 stamp, NSF 61 stamp and NSF PW stamp, Gagne said.
“I had to go through the sugarhouse and take an inventory and it wasn’t that bad in the end,” Gagne said.
To make matters somewhat more complicated is some pipe might actually have both a DWV stamp and the potable water PW stamp.
“As long at it says PW on it you’re good,” Gagne said.