I read in Growing Up Green that maple syrup may contain formaldehyde. In case you don’t know, formaldehyde is a chemical that is a known human carcinogen. It is often used in building materials and to produce many household products, such as glues, particleboard, lacquers etc. If you want to learn more about formaldehyde, check out Formaldehyde and Cancer Risk on cancer.gov.
I’ve had this in the back of my mind since reading it, but I recently ran out of maple syrup, and wanted to do a little research before I purchased more today. I found an article entitled Organic Maple Syrup on thenibble.com, which explains what’s going on. The following is from the “Organic Versus Conventional Syrup” section of the article:
There’s also the issue of formaldehyde. Yes, formaldehyde. Years ago, formaldehyde was fairly common in maple syrup production. When farmers tap trees, the taphole closes naturally after 4 or 6 weeks. Farmers would place formaldehyde pellets into tapholes to keep the holes from closing so the sap would continue to flow; it’s a lot less work to drill a hole only once during the season, after all. At the end of the season, any remnants of pellets, which dissolved gradually, would be removed, and the holes would then close. I’ve also read that formaldehyde pellets would reduce bacteria in the collected sap and result in a lighter-colored syrup, which many Americans prefer. Since the 1990’s in the U.S. and slightly later in Canada, the use of formaldehyde in maple syrup production has been strictly forbidden, but reports on the prevalence of its use are contradictory. L.B. Maple Treat, a Canadian producer, states that producers (at least in Canada) are subject to regular government inspection without advance notice, and “as far as we know no one uses formaldehyde any more.” However, some organic producers and several websites claim that there’s “an alarming presence” of the use of formaldehyde. Organic producers of maple syrup are subject to stringent inspections, and it would be exceptionally difficult, if not outright impossible, for them to use formaldehyde without being caught or having its presence detected.