Maple Syrup Smell Coming from Frutarom Factory in New Jersey

Fruatrom, the source of the mysterious maple syrup smell, is located in North Bergen, New Jersey. View Larger Map

20090205-maplesyrup.jpgMayor Michael Bloomberg just revealed the source of the mysterious maple syrup smell that occasionally wafts over Manhattan. It's coming from flavor and fragrance manufacturer Frutarom, located in North Bergen, New Jersey. Frutarom is processing fenugreek seeds into flavors and fragrance.

After doing some detective work worthy of Law & Order, the city was able to isolate the source using a set of clues:

  • Most reports were from the Upper West Side or Morningside Heights
  • Reports came on days when the wind moved from west to east
  • Winds were at a specific speed—fast enough to transport an odor but not too fast to disperse it

Jen Chung (bottom right, with laptop) of Gothamist liveblogged the conference. The Gothamist liveblog post has links to that site's detailed syrup smell coverage over the years.

Using those clues, various city and state agencies (the Department of Environmental Protection, the Office of Emergency Management), working along with New Jersey agencies, compiled a list of fragrance and flavor manufacturers that fell within the range of observed wind patterns for the days when the odor was reported. The agencies then went on high alert so they could react quickly when the next smell wave hit.

On January 5, it did, and the agencies mobilized, taking air samples and tracking the odor to Frutarom. The odor is an ester, a fragrant organic compound that the mayor's office says is harmless.

As far as the mayor's office is aware, Frutarom is not breaking any laws—and it may or may not be the only source of the odor. There are no plans to clamp down on the smell. Mayor Bloomberg says it's something we just basically have to live with.

The mayor has not smelled the odor himself but reports that he likes maple syrup on his French toast.

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