Vermont's iconic maple syrup industry is pushing back against a proposal from the federal government to add the phrase "added sugars" to nutrition labels.
"It could very easily have a negative impact," cautioned eighth-generation Vermont maple syrup producer Tom Morse.
Morse, whose family operates a popular destination for maple lovers in Montpelier, warned of potential harm to his industry from label changes through the Food and Drug Administration.
"If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it," Morse said.
The FDA is now working to retool its familiar nutrition facts, including proposing the line "added sugars" for maple syrup labels.
That line is aimed at helping consumers stay within dietary guidelines =by alerting them to what a serving would do to their daily calorie count, which would help in fostering greater public health.
However, maple producers worry the information could easily be misinterpreted, with folks wrongly thinking "added sugars" could refer to chemical sweeteners, cane sugar, or corn syrup.
Real maple syrup is a pure, all-natural product with just one ingredient: refined tree sap.
"This is a mistake," Sen. Patrick Leahy(D-Vermont)said of the proposal.
Leahy, along with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) and Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vermont) are urging the FDA to just leave the line off the new labels for maple.
The Congressional delegation says Vermont maple producers have worked hard to educate customers about the value and purity of their product and argued that any confusion would be bad for the agriculture sector.
"There are no added sugars in pure Vermont maple syrup," Rep. Welch said Tuesday.
Syrup sellers plan to weigh in on the FDA's proposal in a public comment period open through mid-June. More information on how to voice your opinion on the issue is available here.
"If the federal government can't figure out that this makes no sense, it doesn't give you much hope for the ability of us to solve any problems," said syrup producer Roger Brown, of Slopeside Syrup in Richmond.
Along with jugs of maple syrup, the "added sugars" line would also appear on containers of honey. The Vermont congressional delegation is asking the FDA to exempt that product, too.