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Operational procedure: Maple syrup grade verification

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1.0 Purpose

The purpose of this document is to provide guidance to Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) inspection staff on standard commodity inspection procedures related to grade verification. These inspections will verify that maple syrup is safe, wholesome and meet the requirements of the Safe Food for Canadians Act (SFCA) and regulations and the Food and Drugs Act (FDA) and regulations.

The guidance outlined below may be used when verifying compliance of maple syrup, to support export certification, to aid in the assessment of a Preventive Control (PC) related sub-element, as part of a food safety investigation or for follow-up to a complaint.

This document is intended to be used in conjunction with other guidance documents as referenced in Section 3.0.

2.0 Authorities

The inspection powers, control actions and enforcement actions authorized by the above legislation are identified and explained in the Operational guideline – Food regulatory response guideline.

3.0 Reference Documents

4.0 Definitions

Definitions are located in the documents listed below or as a defined word where it is intended to supersede the definitions within the glossary documents:

5.0 Acronyms

Acronyms are spelled out the first time they are used in this document and are consolidated in the Food business line acronyms list.

6.0 Operational procedure

This operational procedure provides inspection guidance specific to maple syrup for which grades and colour classes are established in the Canadian Grade Compendium Volume 7 – Maple Syrup and Volume 9 Import Grade Requirements - Part I, Section 4; and for which a standard is established in the Canadian Standards of Identity Volume 6 – Maple Products. Where more specific guidance is required then what is provided in the Standard inspection process (SIP), these will be indicated in this section.

Commodity inspection operational guidance (OG) refers the inspector to the SIP for basic guidance on the 4 inspection steps. If the commodity inspection is being conducted to support a preventive control inspection (PCI) currently underway, some or parts of the inspection steps will have already been completed.

6.1 Prepare for inspection

Refer to SIP, section 3, step 1. In addition to the general guidance provided in SIP, the following applies.

Table 1. Recording inspection data in Digital Service Delivery Platform (DSDP)

Pick one of the following triggers, as appropriate:

  • Peventive Control Inspection Plan
  • Commodity Inspection Plan
  • Incident Response
  • Export Permission
  • Import Permission
Inspection task type Commodity Inspection
Inspection level 1 task Perform Test
Inspection level 2 task Grade verification

6.1.1 Prepare the toolkit

In addition to the list of equipment found in section 3.5 of the SIP the equipment listed in table 2 is needed to complete the grade verification:

Table 2. List of equipment for grade verification
Activity Equipment
Selecting the lot
  • clean, food grade, hermetically sealed containers
  • long handled ladles
Grade verification
  • refractometer (with a scale varying at least from 44° to 77° Brix and graduated every 0.2° Brix) with an integrated temperature corrector, or with separated food grade thermometer graduated from 0°C to 140°C, made of stainless steel
  • spectrophotometer, or visual colorimeter
  • full spectrum lamp (4500-5500 °K, >90 CRI)
  • small cup for colorimeter and for spectrophotometer
  • glass rods, spoon or other device for stirring
  • distilled, deionized water
  • 100 ml graduated cylinder
  • lens paper
  • soft cotton cloths

6.2 Conduct the inspection

Refer to SIP, section 4, step 2. In addition to the general guidance provided in the SIP, the following applies.

6.2.1 Locate and determine the lots

  1. Select lot for sampling and determine sample size according to the appropriate sampling plan: Appendix 1 or Appendix 2. For maple syrup, the inspector may define a lot as a determined quantity of packages of the same grade and colour class, even though the packages are not the same size.
  2. Collect the sample unit:
    • Small packages (up to 540 mL or 500 g): take the entire container as a sample
    • Medium-sized packages (from 1 litre to 40 litres): stir the sampling unit and take the sample portion by pouring into the sampling container
    • Bulk barrels/totes/pails:
      • wipe the top of the container
      • stir the contents with a long-handled ladle to obtain a sample representative of the entire barrel
      • sample from below the surface and away from the side of the container, about 15 cm from the side of the container and approximately 15 cm deep, when possible, to ensure the sampling tool does not damage the container
      • place samples immediately into the sampling container
      • wash the ladle in hot water after each use and dry thoroughly before being used again to prevent mixing syrup from different barrels which may cause cross contamination (flavour, odour, etc.)
    • Tankers: sample from as many different places as possible. If the product in the tanker is not 100% accessible, take samples in proportion to the number of openings available on the tanker. For example, take 2 samples per opening if there are 3. If there is only one opening, take 3 samples but try to take them from different levels.

Consumer-sized packages (5 litres and less): The number of sampling units to be taken should be determined according to the single sampling plan in Appendix 1, based on the largest container in the lot.

Barrels originating from a maple packing establishment: Syrup that is reprocessed and standardized in a packing plant is sampled according to the single sampling plan in Appendix 1. Barrels of the same grade and colour class can be considered from the same lot even though the barrels are not of the same size.

Tankers: Convert the total amount in the tank into the "equivalent" number of 45 gallon barrels. Based on this "equivalent" number of 45 gallon barrels, determine the number of samples to be taken by using the single sampling plan in Appendix 1.

Storage tanks used to store syrup waiting to be put in tanker: Ensure that the tanker filling line does not contain anything that can change the final characteristics of the syrup, then take samples from the storage tanks, and from the tanker after filling.

6.2.2 Grade verification

The worksheet Maple Products Inspection and Grading Report CFIA/ACIA 5438 (accessible only on the Government of Canada network) may be used as a tool for grade verification of maple products.

Assessment of grade requirements
a. Sediment, cloudiness, turbidity

The main substances that could be in suspension in the product are sugar crystals, sugar sand, bubbles of air or carbon dioxide (CO2), and mould.

Examine the maple syrup using a bright light source, refer to table 2.

Place the light source behind the container of maple syrup to observe the presence of crystals or foreign material that may be present.

Observe if the maple syrup contains any particulate matter. To view the whole container, rotate the container and look for particles.

The maple syrup should be free from bubbles of air or carbon dioxide (CO2), sugar crystals, sugar sand, mould and other fine particulate matter.  The maple syrup should have a bright and clear appearance. 

b. Odour and flavour

The evaluation of flavour and odour is best done when:

Evaluate odour:
  1. Gently take 1 sniff.  If the sample is weak, take 2 more.  Try to breathe naturally, do not inhale deeply.
  2. If odour is weak, close the container and wait a few minutes before re-sniffing.  Do not shake samples.
  3. Remove the odour source
  4. Allow a gap of 60 seconds between each odour assessment
  5. Rinse by sniffing taste-neutral, odour-free water between assessments
  6. Keep sample containers closed between assessments

Note: If sniffs are too gentle, some of the odour may be deflected by the lower edges of the nose. Prolonged sniffing time will result in adaptation of the sensors to that odour; however, recovery time is fairly quick provided clean air is breathed between assessments.

Evaluate taste:
  1. For liquids, take small sips (1 to 2 teaspoons) and swirl in mouth. For solids, take small bites (5 to 10 grams) and chew thoroughly.
  2. Retain in mouth 2 to 3 seconds
  3. Expel and rinse mouth between assessments. Rinsing material can be room temperature, taste-neutral, odour-free water or plain, unsalted crackers.
  4. Allow gap of ≥ 15 seconds between samples to allow suitable palate recovery time between samples
Descriptors for flavour and odours:

Characteristic flavour: a distinct and persistent maple syrup flavour, free from any objectionable taste.

Trace of 'tastes': refers to certain defect flavours. A trace of certain flavours in maple syrup is considered a flavour defect but not objectionable. The product must still have a characteristic maple flavour. The traces of taste may be the taste of caramel, which is found most often in amber or dark syrup, or a sappy or buddy taste, often found in syrups at the end of the season. This kind of defect automatically puts the product in Canada Processing Grade / Processing Grade, regardless of its colour class.

Objectionable flavour: are distinct and persistent defect flavours related to production or processing of the product (for example buddy odour or taste, a burnt taste, a woody or mealy taste, the taste of mould, fermentation) or may be foreign flavours other than those from sap production and manufacture of syrup, accidentally incorporated in the maple syrup (for example brown sugar, sugar other than maple sugar, mothballs, plastic, gasoline, tubing, oil, metal, detergent products).

If foreign odours and/or flavours of sugars other than maple sugar such as brown sugar are detected, the product should be detained and take sample to submit to the CFIA lab for analysis for addition of foreign sugars.

If foreign odours and/or flavours such mothballs, plastic, gasoline, oil, and/or detergent products are detected, the product should be detained and the Inspection Supervisor consulted in regards to potential food safety hazards.

c. Soluble solids content in maple syrup

The Canadian Grade Compendium Volume 7 - Maple Syrup sets the minimum and maximum soluble solids content for maple sugar, as determined by a refractometer or hydrometer at 20°C.


  1. Make sure that your refractometer is properly calibrated. Refer to the instructions provided with your instrument
  2. Bring the sample to room temperature (20°C). If the sample is not at 20°C, make the necessary temperature corrections using the thermometer on the apparatus or the correction factors provided in the table. If the maple syrup is too hot, there will not be a sharp line to make a clear reading. This can also damage the instrument.
  3. Stir the sample well before placing it on the refractometer prism
  4. Place a small amount (for example, a drop or two) of the sample onto the prism using a toothpick, tongue depressor, plastic stick, plastic pipette or similar applicator. Never use glass or metal applicators as they can scratch the application surface.
  5. Manufacturer's instructions must then be followed to obtain an accurate reading
  6. Wait 30 seconds before taking the reading

Thoroughly wash and dry the refractometer between each reading with a damp cloth or sponge, water at room temperature and dry cloth. Use soft cotton cloths or the paper used to clean photographic lenses. Humidity or water that may remain on the prism or poorly dried sugar will cause a false reading.

The minimum dry soluble solids content required to place a grade name on syrup is 66°Brix. The equipment manufacturer's precision and accuracy of the instrument is to be taken into account when calibrating the equipment.

For example, upon calibration:

If Then Example
The instrument reading matches the calibration solution The actual instrument reading is used Calibration solution is 66° Brix and instrument reads 66° Brix
The instrument reading is 0.2° Brix lower than the calibration solution The actual instrument reading plus 0.2° Brix is used Calibration solution is 66° Brix and instrument reads 65.8° Brix
The instrument reading is 0.2° Brix higher than the calibration solution The actual instrument reading minus 0.2° Brix is used Calibration solution is 66° Brix and instrument reads 66.2° Brix
d. Colour classes

There are 4 colour classes of maple syrup;

To determine the colour class of maple syrup, use either a spectrophotometer or a visual colorimeter.

  1. Spectrophotemeter

    This apparatus measures the amount of light from a light source which passes through a solution. Expressed in percentage of transmission, the amount of light which passes through a sample will define the product's colour class.

    The test is done at 560 nm wave length, using square cells with an interior dimension of 10 mm. All readings taken with cells of a different dimension must be adapted by means of a conversion chart.

    Unfiltered syrup contains matter in suspension which will prevent light from passing through.

    It is therefore recommended that the spectrophotometer be used to measure colour of filtered syrup only.

    Refer to the user manual for the spectrophotometer on how to use the device.

  2. Visual colorimeter

    The colour of maple syrup can also be determined using a colorimeter. Ensure the proper grade standard discs are included for use.

    Colour classifications for maple syrup
    Golden, delicate taste Amber, rich taste Dark, robust taste Very dark, strong taste


    not less than

    less than, but not less than

    less than, but not less than

    less than

    Percentage of
    light transmission


    75.0 - 50.0

    50.0 - 25.0


6.2.3 Determine compliance

The assessment criteria for maple syrup grade verification includes a grading tolerance. If a non-compliance is identified, refer to SIP, section 4.5 and to SIP, section 4.6.

Grading tolerance

Maple syrup in consumer-sized packages (5 litres or less): A lot of product will be determined to be in compliance with regulations when, after analysis, the number of samples found not in compliance is lower than or equal to the number to determine acceptance of the lot.

This tolerance, which appears at the bottom of the single sampling plan in Appendix 1, is valid for all defects except for products that have been adulterated or are harmful to health of consumers.

Maple syrup in bulk (more than 5 litres): No tolerance will be permitted in grading of bulk maple syrup.

Validity of grading results

Inspection results remain valid for 4 months. Maple syrup may undergo changes during prolonged storage, including non-enzymatic darkening reactions which will impact the grade.

6.2.4 Capturing notes related to commodity inspection in DSDP

For information on capturing notes relating to commodity inspections in the DSDP, refer to Appendix A section 5.4.1 of the SIP and section 3.5.1 of the DSDP SOP INS- conducting an inspection (accessible only on the Government of Canada network – RDIMS 9839405).

In addition to capturing an accurate description (brand name, common name, net quantity, lot number) of the commodity inspected in the "Commodity Description" field in DSDP, enter the same commodity description in the "objective evidence" field along with the non-compliances found so that it appears in the final inspection report.

Worksheets used as tools to aid in the compliance decision of the grade verification should be saved as an RDIMS file and referenced in the "Notes" section of the document record of the inspection task record in DSDP. Upon request, the worksheet may be given to the licence holder.

6.3 Communicate the results

Refer to SIP, section 5, step 3. In addition to the general guidance provided in the SIP, the following applies.

The DSDP inspection report is not required to be provided if the maple syrup grade verification was conducted to support the issuance of an export certificate.

6.4 Conduct follow-up

Refer to SIP, section 6, step 4.

For general inquiries related to this Operational Guidance Document, please follow established communication channels, including submitting an electronic Request for Action Form (e-RAF) (accessible only on the Government of Canada network).

7.0 Appendixes

Appendix 1: Single sampling plan and acceptance number

Container size
(net weight or volume)
Inspection lot size (number of containers)
Group 1
≤ 340 g (≤ 12 oz)
≤ 341 mL (≤ 12 fl oz)
or less
5,401 to
62,401 to
174,001 to
240,001 to
360,001 to
Over 480,000
Group 2
> 340 g and ≤ 1.70 kg
(> 12 oz and ≤ 60 oz)
> 341 mL and ≤ 1.70 L
(> 12 fl oz and ≤ 60 fl oz)
or less
3,601 to
14,401 to
48,001 to
96,001 to
156,001 to
228,001 to
300,001 to
Over 420,000
Group 3
> 1.70 Kg and ≤ 4.54 kg
(> 60 oz and ≤ 160 oz)
> 1.70 L and ≤ 4.54 L
(> 60 fl oz and ≤ 160 fl oz)
or less
1,801 to
8,401 to
18,001 to
36,001 to
60,001 to
96,001 to
132,001 to
Over 168,000
Group 4
> 4.54 Kg and ≤ 45.36 kg
(> 160 oz and ≤ 100 lbs)
> 4.54 L and ≤ 45.5 L
(>160 fl oz
and ≤ 10 gal)
or less
201 to
801 to
1,601 to
3,201 to
8,001 to
16,001 to
24,001 to
Over 32,000
Group 5
> 45.36 kg (100 lbs)
> 45.5 L (10 gallons)
or less
26 to
81 to
201 to
401 to
801 to
1,201 to
2,001 to
Over 3,200
Single sampling plan
Sample size 3 6 13 21 29 38 48 60 72
Acceptance number Table Note 1 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

The inspector shall assess, in the case of: 

To decrease the sample sizes ranging between 6 and 72 samples, the multiple sampling plan may be used (see Appendix 2)

Appendix 2: Multiple sample plan

Multiple sampling plan based on sample size, n from single sampling plan
n = 6 n = 13 n = 21 n = 29 n = 38 n = 48 n = 60 n = 72
nc c r nc c r nc c r nc c r nc c r nc c r nc c r nc c r
4 0 2 8 0 3 10 0 3 12 0 4 14 0 4 16 0 4 18 0 5 22 0 5
6 0 2 10 0 3 14 1 4 16 0 4 20 0 5 24 1 5 28 1 6 32 1 7
8 1 2 12 1 3 18 1 4 20 1 5 26 1 6 32 2 6 38 2 7 42 2 8
      14 2 3 22 2 5 24 2 5 32 2 6 40 3 8 48 3 8 52 3 9
            26 4 5 28 3 6 38 3 7 40 4 8 58 4 8 62 5 10
                  32 3 6 44 6 7 56 8 8 68 8 9 72 6 10
                  36 5 6                   82 9 10


nc : Cumulative sample sizes
c: Acceptance numbers
r:  Rejection numbers

The multiple sampling plan allows you to take fewer samples as compared to the single sampling plan, while remaining statistically valid. Select the smallest cumulative sample size (nc) that corresponds to the number of samples (n) prescribed by the applicable single sampling plan in Appendix 1.

Acceptance criteria for the multiple sampling plan

  1. If the number of non-compliant samples does not exceed the acceptance number (c) prescribed for the cumulative sample size (nc), the lot is accepted.
  2. If the number of non-compliant samples is equal to, or exceeds, the rejection number (r) prescribed for the cumulative sample size (nc), the lot is rejected.
  3. If the number of non-compliant samples is between the acceptance number (c) and the rejection number (r) prescribed for the cumulative sample size (nc), take additional samples so that the cumulative sample size is equal to the next largest cumulative sample size in the plan. Determine if the lot is accepted or rejected by applying the procedures outlined in (i) and (ii). Increase the cumulative sample size until lots are determined accepted or rejected.


If the simple sampling plan prescribes 6 samples (n = 6) but you decide to take less, you must take 4 samples (n = 4), as prescribed by the multiple sampling plan:   

nc = 4 (c = 0; r = 2)

nc = 6 (c = 0; r = 2) :

In this case, analyze 2 additional samples (4+2 = 6). If the total number of non-compliant samples:

nc = 8 (c = 1; r = 2) :

In this case, analyze 2 more additional samples (6 + 2 = 8). If the total number of non-compliant samples

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