The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) has proposed revisions to the U.S. Standards for Grades of Maple Sirup in response to a 2011 petition submitted by the International Maple Syrup Institute (IMSI). Arguing that “consumers currently face a patchwork of grading systems in the United States that are confusing,” IMSI has reportedly asked AMS to implement new standards under which “the grade of a sample unit of maple syrup would be determined using the factors of color, flavor, odor, damage, and turbidity (cloudiness).”

In addition to changing the spelling of “sirup” to the more common “syrup,” the agency would recategorize Grade B syrup “containing no damage or off-flavors” as Grade A “to allow the darker syrup to be sold at the retail level.” The revised standards would further divide Grade A into the following flavor and color classes: (i) U.S. Grade A Golden (delicate taste, ≥75.0 percent Tc [light transmittance]); (ii) U.S. Grade A Amber (rich taste, 50.0-74.9 percent Tc); (iii) U.S. Grade A Dark (robust taste, 25.0-49.9 percent Tc); and (iv) U.S. Grade A Very Dark (strong taste, <25.0 percent Tc). Under the proposal, Grade A syrup must also be free from off flavors, odors, fermentation, and turbidity or sediment, while “Processing Grade” syrup “must have fairly good characteristic maple taste, be fairly free of damage, turbidity or cloudiness, and be fairly free from foreign material, such as pieces of bark, soot, dust, and dirt.”

Although New York and Vermont have already moved ahead with new regulations for grading maple syrup that take effect January 1, 2015, producers, processors and handlers in other regions often rely on the voluntary federal standard in the absence of state rules and are responsible for ensuring that their grading statements are compliant and accurate. AMS will accept comments on the proposed revisions until July 7, 2014.See Federal Register and AMS Press Release, May 7, 2014.