MaryAnne Kinney, whose family owns Kinney’s Sugarhouse in Knox, is planning her own one-woman march on Washington, D.C., in June to protest a proposed federal regulation that would require maple syrup labels to indicate the product contains “added sugar.”
Some Maine maple producers are upset by impending FDA regulation that says the label on syrup (and honey) must say that it has “added sugar.”
Maple syrup is naturally high in sugar – so high it triggers the new requirement, which was designed to help consumers follow updated federal nutrition guidelines and alert them to excess sugar in their diets that could contribute to health problems such as obesity and diabetes. The “added sugar” designation would be listed on the Nutrition Facts label.
But maple syrup producers like Kinney say the new labels are confusing and could have a “devastating” effect on their businesses.
“It’s basically lying to consumers and lying to the people of the United States, in my opinion,” Kinney said.
The change also would apply to honey, and Maine honey producers are not happy with it either. Richard McLaughlin, president of the Maine State Beekeepers Association, called the labeling requirement “a nuisance.” He says honey is, on average, 17 percent water and the rest is mostly sugar.
“Honey is a pure product, and it is not altered by the beekeeper,” he said. “In our case, the sugar that’s naturally in honey is how the bees produce it. There is no added sugar.”
The FDA has tried to address industry concerns by tweaking the label with a symbol appearing after the added sugars daily value that directs consumers to a footnote reading: “All of these sugars are naturally occurring in honey.” The same would apply to maple syrup.
“That didn’t satisfy any of us either because we all know about footnotes, right? Seldom are they read,” said Lyle Merrifield, a maple syrup producer from Gorham who is president of the Maine Maple Producers Association.
Merrifield said he first heard about the issue about three years ago, but many maple producers have viewed it as something that might be coming in the future, and they’re only now waking up to the fact that the change is on their doorsteps. It’s a similar situation with beekeepers, McLaughlin said. “I think it’s probably fallen off the radar, to a large degree, from peoples’ minds,” he said…