In Quebec, maple syrup production is regulated by government agencies like the Ministère de l’Agriculture, des Pêcheries et de l’Alimentation (in french, meaning Ministry of Agriculture, Fishing and Food, aka MAPAQ). Quality testing and distribution of maple syrup, on the other hand, is defined and organised by a large private association of maple producers, the Producteurs et Productrices acéricoles du Québec (in french, meaning Maple Producers of Quebec, aka PPAQ). Throughout the project, we collaborated with these organizations to ensure that our enzymatic treatment could be easily incorporated into the maple syrup production process. We also did this to make sure that we created a solution that respected all the necessary regulations.

Where Does aSAP Fit in the Production Process?

In Quebec, the PPAQ takes care of acquiring every maple syrup barrel produced so they can test it to ensure its quality. This barrel can have one of two fates: the PPAQ can either destroy it (if it doesn’t fit the quality criteria) or sell it (if its quality is verified). Ropy maple syrup doesn’t pass their viscosity test.

When the PPAQ tests viscosity, they check the “filament” that maple syrup makes. When this filament is over 10 cm, the maple syrup is considered ropy and is stored in warehouses until it is eventually destroyed, causing economic losses to maple syrup producers who have to pay for this storage and destruction.

After some discussions with the PPAQ, we found out there is currently no test that shows which maple sap will turn into ropy maple syrup at the end of the transformation process. On top of that, maple syrup, as it is defined by the PPAQ, needs to be 100% pure, without any adulteration(PPAQ, 2021). The addition of our enzymatic treatment to the ropy syrup is considered an adulteration, so treated ropy syrup can only be considered and sold as a derivative maple product.

Without being able to detect future ropiness from the sap, and with this strict definition of maple syrup, we knew that we had to design our treatment to target the barrels, to avoid extra losses from wrongly targeting sap. We decided to create our treatment for it to only be applied to the ropy syrup that has already been produced, and that is therefore already stored by the PPAQ, our proposed end user for aSAP itself.

Our treatment will be introduced after the last stage of the production process, directly in the defective syrup.

Adapting aSAP to Warehouse Conditions

Our enzymatic treatment has been designed on purpose so the enzyme would be active at the storage condition of these warehouses. The solution containing the enzyme (dextranase) can easily be produced (see Results) and be added to the barrel to break down the dextrans and lower the viscosity of the syrup. Since ropy syrup is very viscous, we tried to make our solution as effective as possible: our enzyme solution should be homogeneous in the ropy syrup. To answer this problem, we simulated how we will administer our enzyme solution to the barrel (see Modeling).

Uses for Our Final Derivative Maple Product

While the PPAQ would be the proposed end-users of our enzymatic treatment itself, we also looked into potential end-users of the product it created. That is why, during our project, we also kept in contact with the MAPAQ to know more about food regulation and how we can market our derivative maple product.

For our treated syrup to be considered edible, the dextranase has to be authorized by Canada Health as a food additive. As of now, many enzymes are already authorized in various food products. For example, lysozymes are accepted in cheese, and amylase is accepted in beer, wine , and even chocolate syrup (Canada Health, 2021). We also looked if dextranase is already used in food. We found that there was dextranase used in toothpaste to prevent dental caries (Juntarachot, Kantachote, Peerajan, Sirilun, and Chaiyasut, 2020) and used in the sugar cane industry (Khalikova, Susi, and Korpela, 2005).

We are confident that our enzyme could be accepted as a food additive by the MAPAQ. Even if it cannot be accepted as a food product, we also thought about alternative industries, like cosmetic products or food for animals, etc.

Another aspect to consider when looking into whether or not our end product is edible is the fact that dextrans are produced by bacteria. Ropy syrup is currently considered as being contaminated by bacteria by the MAPAQ regulations. That’s why we also decided to characterize the microbiota of the ropy syrup. Even though we couldn’t identify any toxin-producing microorganisms, we still hope that our research will help experts going forward.

Will People Even Be Interested?

When dealing with synthetic biology and food, an extra challenge lies in people’s acceptance of it, both producers and consumers. To ensure an easy implementation, we also wanted to know if our solution would be accepted and used by the community of maple syrup producers.

To this end, in 2020, we conducted a survey to know if maple syrup producers would be interested in this treatment being used on ropy syrup. The results of the survey suggested that producers mostly sought alternatives for flavor defects, and that they were particularly open to the idea of an enzymatic treatment for ropy syrup.

  • 73.5% of the 52 respondents would agree to add them to maple syrup to improve its quality or to elevate their revenu.

  • Ropy syrup, although it’s a minor problem, is a significant problem for producers.

  • The majority of producers are asking for more investment in research to solve the problem of poor quality syrup.

This year, we surveyed consumers. The results of this survey were mixed, but we remain optimistic: while consumers would accept the final product more if there was no trace left of the dextranase used to thin it out, they still think that solving this issue for maple producers is an important endeavour.

References PPAQ. (2021, July 21). La classification du Sirop d'érable, Gage de Qualité. Producteurs et productrices acéricoles du Québec. Retrieved October 10, 2021, from:

Canada Health. (2021, October 5). Liste des enzymes alimentaires autorisées (Listes des additifs alimentaires autorisés). Retrieved October 10, 2021, from:

Juntarachot, N., Kantachote, D., Peerajan, S., Sirilun, S., & Chaiyasut, C. (2020). Optimization of Fungal Dextranase Production and Its Antibiofilm Activity, Encapsulation and Stability in Toothpaste. Molecules, 25(20), 4784. Retrieved from

Khalikova, E., Susi, P., & Korpela, T. (2005). Microbial dextran-hydrolyzing enzymes: fundamentals and applications. Microbiol Mol Biol Rev, 69(2), 306-325. doi:10.1128/mmbr.69.2.306-325.2005