SALEM, Ohio — The recently enacted federal food safety law, known as the Food Safety Modernization Act, includes new requirements for maple syrup producers.
The rules differ, depending on the size of operation and how you sell your syrup, and there is still some ambiguity on exactly what a producer must do.
In Ohio and Pennsylvania, maple syrup production is regulated at the state level, and is considered a low-risk food because of its contents and simple method of preparation.
Ohio producers who gather and boil 75 percent or more of their own sap are considered exempt from state inspection, but may be subject to the new federal rule.
Dan Milo, food safety supervisor at the Ohio Department of Agriculture, said his understanding is that producers who wholesale more than they retail need to register with the Food and Drug Administration.
Milo said the online registration is free. If the producer does not have a computer, they can contact their local OSU Extension office for assistance.
Milo said few Ohio operations would likely be large enough to register, but if they are, they would be subject to FDA inspection. His office conducts the state inspections, and also contracts with FDA to provide federal inspections, with the goal of bringing producers into compliance, he said, rather than fined.
In Pennsylvania, Lydia Johnson, who directs the Bureau of Food Safety and Laboratory Services, said Pennsylvania maple syrup producers are required to register with the state, unless the production is done for personal use or close friends and family.
State registration costs $35 and assures the producer adheres to guidelines such as a good physical structure for producing syrup, proper equipment and utensils, rodent control, sanitation and other basic considerations of producing a safe product.
Johnson said she’s telling Pennsylvania producers to register with the FDA, but to seek an exemption from the Preventive Control’s Rule, which allows “small” and “very small” businesses to be exempt, if the syrup production is done on their own farm.
Producers who are granted an exemption would still need to comply with FDA’s Good Manufacturing Practices, according to an info sheet provided by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture.
Maple syrup producers who do not meet this size and on-farm production requirement would likely need to comply with at least some form of the Preventive Controls Rule, according to the department.
Ohio and Pennsylvania are both working with state Extension programs to educate producers on what they need to do.
Gary Graham, maple syrup specialist with Ohio State University Extension, said producers typically have a narrow window of time to register, between October and December, and registration is only open in even years, including this year (2018) and again in 2020.
He’s telling Ohio producers to follow the wholesale versus retail rule, and that if they wholesale more than they retail, they need to register.
Graham said registration has been difficult for some Amish and Mennonite producers, who often do not have a computer or a phone. He said the FDA is accepting hard copy registrations this year, but that in 2020, everything must be done electronically, unless a waiver is requested.
Graham has worked with Milo to give presentations on the new requirements, and the two have also teamed up to publish a 76-page document called A Brief Summary of the Regulations of Maple Syrup Production in Ohio.
The publication is available on the OSU Extension Holmes County website: https://holmes.osu.edu/maple, where you will also find registration forms.
If a producer is still unsure about what to do, or if they are required to register, Graham said they should contact FDA or visit the FDA food safety website: www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/FSMA/.