by SUSAN MANN
The next step for the Ontario maple syrup association following Tuesday’s release of the new federal maple regulations modernizing syrup grades and colours is convincing the province to adopt the federal rules.
Ray Bonenberg, president of the Ontario Maple Syrup Producers Association, says the association wants the province to replace its current regulations with the new federal classes and word descriptions. He says he’s been pushing the provincial agricultural ministry “quite hard” to adopt the new federal rules.
Ontario Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Minister Jeff Leal says by email supplied by his press adviser the ministry will review and evaluate the federal regulatory changes but any alternations to provincial rules would require consultation with the industry before changes are made.
He says the federal regulations address maple products traded interprovincially and internationally while the Ontario regulations address maple products packed and sold within Ontario by non-federally registered establishments.
As for the federal regulations, Boneberg says they contain a “clearer definition” of maple syrup than the previous one and help “us in the battle of adulterated and fake syrup,” which is a big issue, particularly in the United States. The new Canadian regulations harmonize the maple syrup definition and grading system between Canada and the United States.
There’s no law against the practices some syrup makers use of copying packaging similar to that adopted by maple syrup producers right down to the maple leaves on the replicated jugs. “They call it maple-flavoured syrup” and position it next to real maple syrup on store shelves, he says. But that’s confusing for consumers.
In addition, fake syrup makers are taking the “maple brand” industry has worked hard at promoting “and using it to their advantage with no benefit to the maple industry,” Bonenberg notes.
Canadian maple syrup farmers produce 84 per cent of the world maple syrup production while the United States is responsible for 16 per cent.
The Ontario association has 470 members and about 32 members are federally registered. The new federal rules only apply to those producers who are federally registered. Bonenberg says federally registered farmers get audited by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.
Most of the producers in Ontario “will still have to use an older labeling system temporarily until Ontario changes its regulations,” he says. People making syrup for personal consumption and not for sale aren’t affected by the new federal rule changes.
The amended Canadian federal regulations “position us so that consumers will now be able to understand flavour compared to the colours,” Bonenberg explains. The old regulations contained the colours of – light, medium and amber.
The new regulations have four revised colour classes with descriptive words to go with each one. They are: golden with delicate, amber with rich, dark with robust and very dark with strong. The new classes and word descriptions “gives the consumer a sense of what a flavour might be,” he notes, adding it’s similar to cheese with old cheese having a strong flavour or other products, such as wine and beer.
The changes are based on recommendations from the International Maple Syrup Institute and feedback during previous consultations with consumers and industry representatives, the CFIA says in a Dec. 16 press release. The Institute is a voluntary organization representing the Canadian and American maple syrup industries. The Institute has been working and consulting for a decade to develop common grading standards for Canada and the United States.
The amended federal regulations are to be published on Canada Gazette II on Dec. 31, the CFIA release says. There is a two-year implementation period to give industry time to comply with the new rules. BF