Where's the maple? McDonald's may have gotten itself in a sticky mess with the Vermont Agency of Agriculture (VAA), who says the company's new Fruit & Maple Oatmeal menu item does not actually contain any maple product. That's a violation of Vermont's stringent maple law, and could mean that McDonald's will have to change ingredients or labeling.
"What we understand, is there is no actual maple in the [McDonald's] product being advertised. Vermont maple law and regulations are very specific for how the term maple is used in advertisements," Kelly Loftus, VAA spokesperson told Slashfood. "It is illegal to use the word maple on a product unless the sweetener is 100 percent pure maple. Artificial maple flavoring should be clearly and conspicuously labeled on the principal panel with the term 'artificial flavor'."
McDonald's Fruit & Maple Oatmeal ingredient list includes whole grain rolled oats, brown sugar, food starch-modified, salt, natural maple flavor with other natural flavor (plant source), barley malt extract, and caramel color.
In a written statement, McDonald's says they are "currently in discussions with the State of Vermont to ensure that we meet any applicable state standards."
Vermont officials told Slashfood they contacted McDonald's on January 3, but as of this morning, had not yet received a reply from the company. According to WCAX, state officials will give McDonald's 60 to 90 days to respond.
This isn't the first time Vermonters have flexed their muscles over the sweet stuff. In September, state officials took Pinnacle Foods to task over their new line of Log Cabin syrup because of the "all natural" labeling. As a result, Pinnacle Foods removed caramel color from its syrup to comply with FDA regulations, but kept the familiar maple syrup packaging and "all natural" labeling.
Vermont is the largest producer of maple syrup in the country.
"Maple is Vermont's signature product. We take the regulations that sustain the purity of the product extremely seriously. When we see something out there that says maple syrup, but really isn't maple syrup according to our regulations here, well that's something that needs to be addressed," says Loftus.
UPDATE (1/24/2011): McDonald's Maple Settlement
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