Monday, March 10, 2014
By LISA RATHKE The Associated Press
MONTPELIER, Vt. - In maple country of Vermont, consumers know the real thing.
So starting Feb. 1, customers at Vermont McDonald's stores can request 100 percent maple syrup or sugar to be added to the restaurant chain's new Fruit and Maple Oatmeal to settle complaints that the company improperly labeled the product as maple flavored in the state.
As the country's largest maple syrup producer, making 890,000 gallons in 2010, the state is quick to protect the integrity of its maple products, calling out others labeled as maple that aren't.
On Thursday, Gov. Peter Shumlin said the only maple ingredient in McDonald's Fruit and Maple Oatmeal was extracted from the bark of a bush that is a distant relative of the maple tree.
The product does not comply with Vermont's maple laws, officials said.
"The word 'maple' has a very specific meaning to Vermonters," said state Agriculture Secretary Chuck Ross. "Vermont maple products are renowned not only for their flavor, but for their quality."
McDonald's Corp. spokeswoman Nicole DiNoia said the company is pleased with the settlement and happy to continue offering the oatmeal product in Vermont.
The Oak Brook, Ill.-based company acknowledges that the oatmeal does not contain a maple product as specifically defined by Vermont's maple laws, according to the agreement.
It's not the first time Vermont has lashed out at maple impostors.
In September, the maker of Log Cabin All Natural Syrup said it was getting rid of the product's caramel coloring in response to complaints by producers of real maple syrup.
But officials in Vermont said the Pinnacle Foods product's label and packaging are still misleading to consumers and violate the state's maple syrup labeling regulations.
U.S. Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., and Vermont's agriculture secretary had called on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to investigate whether Log Cabin All Natural Syrup violated federal guidelines by marketing itself as a natural product.
Welch said that the ingredients included caramel color, xanthan gum - a natural thickener - and 4 percent maple.