Maple Syrup Smell: NY Officials Reveal Source

New York City officials have discovered the source of a mysterious maple syrup smell that has enveloped the city (Manhattan in particular) at various times since 2005.

The culprit: a New Jersey facility that processes flavors and fragrances.

After the latest occurrence last month, officials launched a new investigation. It included mapping the time and place of all the odor complaints to the city's 311 hot line.

Experts compared those with wind and atmospheric conditions. Then they checked those against air sampling tests during the periods that New Yorkers reported smelling the odor.

New Jersey officials also helped with the case. Finally, the odor was traced to a Bergen County facility which processes fenugreek seeds.

Given the evidence, I think it's safe to say that the Great Maple Syrup Mystery has finally been solved," said Mayor Bloomberg. "I want to thank the City's environmental protection and emergency workers, as well as their colleagues in the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, for their diligence in finding the source of the smell, which was a lot like finding a needle in a haystack. Air samples taken by DEP have confirmed that the odor in New York City was an ester associated with fenugreek seed processing. The Health Department confirmed that the odor does not pose a health risk, but I am pleased to know that our OEM and DEP smelling sleuths got to the bottom of this mystery."

Gothamist has a map of recent syrup smell locations. The New York Times first reported on the smell in an October 2005 article titled "Good Smell Perplexes New Yorkers."

An unseen, sweet-smelling cloud drifted through parts of Manhattan last night. Arturo Padilla walked through it and declared that it was awesome.

"It's like maple syrup. With Eggos. Or pancakes," he said. "It's pleasant."

Back in 2005, Mayor Bloomberg said a number of agencies -- the NYPD, the Office of Emergency Management and the Health Department -- had investigated the scent and found nothing toxic or terrorism-related.