Fenugreek. Photo: marymuses, Flickr
City officials traced the sweet odor to a food processing plant in North Bergen, N.J., which processes the spice fenugreek at a facility across the Hudson River from Manhattan, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Thursday.
"I think it's safe to say that the mystery of the maple syrup mist has finally been solved," Bloomberg said.
Residents of New York have periodically complained about the smell of maple syrup since an October night in 2005, when hundreds of complaints flooded the city's information hotline.
The city deployed technical sleuths whenever the sweet smelling odor returned, but they didn't get their big break until Jan. 29, when Department of Environmental Protection officials were able to take samples of the odor and glean it was an ester created during the processing of fenugreek seeds.
Officials believe the maple syrup smell originated at Frutarom, a flavor and fragrance company that processes the spice on a regular basis. Fenugreek is used to flavor artificial maple syrup and is a staple of Indian cuisine.
Frutarom does not appear to be violating any laws releasing the harmless smell, and it and will likely continue, Bloomberg said.
"It just happens to be one of the aromas that we have to live with in a city like New York," he said.