Overview

The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) administers an annual Maple Syrup Monitoring Program to assess samples of Ontario maple syrup for compliance with Ontario Regulation 119/11 - Produce, Honey and Maple Products (O. Reg. 119/11) under the Food Safety and Quality Act, 2001 (FSQA). Anyone who packs, labels, transports or sells maple syrup in Ontario and who is not federally licenced must comply with this regulation.

About the process

Sample collection

Samples of Ontario maple syrup are collected by OMAFRA Food Safety Inspectors who are appointed under the FSQA. Inspectors appointed under the FSQA have authority to collect samples at the expense of the owner. Samples are randomly collected from across the province from points of sale including:

  • retail stores
  • roadside stands
  • farmers' markets
  • farm gate

Samples undergo:

  • laboratory analysis by the University of Guelph’s Agriculture and Food Laboratory
  • container and label review to determine whether they meet various requirements under O. Reg. 119/11

Container and label review

After a maple syrup sample is collected, an OMAFRA inspector reviews the label and the sample container to assess whether they meet container and labelling requirements under O. Reg. 119/11.

Maple syrup that is sold in containers of 125 milliliters or less has fewer labelling requirements than containers that are greater than 125 milliliters. Inspectors take the container size into consideration when determining whether the label is compliant with O. Reg. 119/11.

Lead analysis

All samples are analyzed for the presence of lead.

O. Reg. 119/11 prohibits the sale, transportation or packaging of maple syrup that is contaminated. It also requires that all utensils, containers and equipment used in the production and storage of maple syrup must be made of food-grade material. Lead levels in maple syrup that are above 0.15 parts per million (ppm) indicate that there is likely a source of lead in the production or storage equipment and that this equipment does not meet regulatory requirements.

Lead levels above Health Canada's tolerance level of 0.5 ppm can indicate a food safety risk. When these levels are detected, the Ministry takes immediate compliance action. Refer to Compliance action for more details.

Grade and colour classification

Maple syrup labels must include a grade and colour class that meet various criteria under O. Reg. 119/11. Labels on consumer containers of 125 millilitres or less do not require this information.

Historically, samples were tested by the University of Guelph Agriculture and Food Laboratory for percent light transmission using a spectrophotometer. These values were then compared to the colour ranges described in Table 5 of O. Reg. 119/11 to confirm whether the container was labelled with the correct colour class.

Containers with an incorrect or missing grade or colour class on the label were considered non-compliant with O. Reg. 119/11. The ministry followed up with the producers of these products accordingly.

Routine colour testing was discontinued by the program starting in the 2022 maple season. The program will complete colour testing only on a case-by-case basis.

Density (Brix) analysis

O. Reg. 119/11 requires maple syrup to have a minimum density or soluble solids content of 66 percent (66º Brix). Historically, all samples were analyzed for density using a bench top digital refractometer. Brix levels below 66º Brix were considered non-compliant with O. Reg. 119/11. The ministry followed up with the producers of these products accordingly.

Routine Brix testing was discontinued by the program starting in the 2022 maple season. The program will complete Brix testing only on a case-by-case basis.

Receiving results

All producers receive a letter, sent by mail or email, detailing the test results for their maple syrup sample.  

Compliance action

If requirements under O. Reg. 119/11 are not met, OMAFRA follows established progressive compliance protocols and works with the person responsible for the maple syrup to bring the product into compliance. The first progressive step usually involves providing education and advice to the producer or person responsible for the syrup. If they do not adjust their practices to meet regulatory requirements, additional compliance action is taken which may include:

  • verbal or written warnings
  • compliance orders
  • product detention
  • seizure
  • fines/tickets under the Provincial Offences Act

When lead levels above 0.15 ppm are detected, the producer is notified and arrangements are made for an OMAFRA Inspector to follow-up with the producer to help identify the source(s) of the lead and work with the producer to ensure it is removed.  

If lead levels are above 0.5 ppm, this is considered a potential food safety risk and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is immediately notified. Compliance action for potential food safety risks could include:

  • collection of additional samples
  • compliance orders
  • product detention or disposal
  • recall by the CFIA

For more information about the requirements for maple syrup in Ontario, refer to Regulatory requirements for maple products in Ontario.

Maple syrup monitoring program results 2017-2021

The following tables provide an aggregate summary of the results from OMAFRA Maple Syrup Monitoring Program from 2017 to 2021.

The results from this program are not statistically viable and cannot be used to generalize the state of the maple syrup industry.

Note that the Maple Syrup Monitoring Program was not administered in 2020. Routine Brix and colour testing were discontinued starting in the 2022 maple season.

Table 1: Number of samples collected for OMAFRA Maple Syrup Monitoring Program

YearNumber of samples collected
202111
2020N/A
2019100
2018101
201775

Density (Brix)

Table 2: Summary of Brix testing results

 20212020201920182017
Number of samples tested11N/A10010175
Samples with compliant Brix levels9N/A909670

Label review

Table 3: Summary of maple syrup label review

Label requirement20212020201920182017
Number of labels reviewed9N/A10010175
All requirements presentfootnote *6N/A504933
"Maple Syrup" missing0N/A301
Volume missing1N/A1189
Grade missing1N/A10915
Colour missing1N/A9510
Name or complete address missing2N/A291920
Lot code missingfootnote **1N/A2027N/A

Lead analysis

Table 4: Number of samples with lead over the allowable levels

Lead level20212020201920182017
>0.5 ppm0N/A013
>0.15 ppm and <0.49 ppm1N/A210N/A

Colour classification

Table 5: Maple syrup labels reviewed for colour classification

 20212020201920182017
Number of samples collected11N/A10010175
Number labelled with the correct colour class8N/A636534

Grade identification

Table 6: Maple syrup reviewed for grade identification

 20212020201920182017
Number of samples collected11N/A10010175
Number labelled with the correct grade9N/A636534

Grade and colour class are not required on containers of maple syrup that are less than 125 milliliters but may be included as optional information. If this information is included on the label, then it must be correct.

Contact us

For more information about OMAFRA Maple Syrup Monitoring Program or to obtain results from prior to 2017, please contact the Food Safety Inspection Delivery Branch at fpo.omafra@ontario.ca or call 1-877-424-1300.