that sweet smell in NY last month? It came from Jersey

Jersey usually gives out nasty smells, so this is a welcome change.

A Garden State food processing plant is the likely culprit for a mystery maple syrup smell that has occasionally wafted over New York for years, Mayor Bloomberg said Thursday. Scientists from both states pored over chemical registries, air samples, weather reports and 311 call logs to isolate the Frutarom factory in gritty North Bergen, which was processing fenugreek seeds on nights when the odor arose.

“The mystery of the maple syrup mist has finally been solved,” Bloomberg said. “The odor is completely harmless. Frutarom does not appear to be breaking any rules.” Frutarom slammed down the phone on a reporter who called for comment, but New Jersey’s environmental regulators said they would work with the company to try to figure out why the sweet smell escapes – and how to keep it in. “There’s a good chance some of us will catch a whiff of the smell once again,” the mayor said. “It just happens to be one of the aromas we’re going to have to live with in a city like New York.”

The good news, he said, is that at least the stuff doesn’t stink: “All things considered, I can think of a lot of things worse than maple syrup.” Fenugreek is a plant that can be processed into all sorts of sweet smells for food additives – including the stuff that makes fake maple syrup smell like real maple syrup.
Some women who take fenugreek to help with breast-feeding report that they smell like maple syrup, too.
New Yorkers first caught a whiff of the sweet scent of fenugreek in the fall of 2005, when it drifted across the upper West Side.

Residents thought it smelled like maple syrup, French toast, pancakes or coffee cake – and feared it could be a chemical spill or biological terrorism. The aroma reappeared sporadically since then, when the wind was right to carry it across the Hudson River and into New York nostrils. City investigators found nothing harmful, but couldn’t find the source even as the smell recurred eight more times. Last month, the Department of Environmental Protection armed crews with special sampling jars and put them on alert to dash to the scene as soon as the smell returned.

When 311 got 80 calls about the odor Jan. 29, crews raced to the upper West Side and captured four samples. DEP scientist Harry Meyer stayed up 40 hours straight to identify the chemical involved.
“Environmental stuff is a regional thing, and we are inextricably tied up with New Jersey,” Bloomberg said. “I never smelled it. But I do, for the record, like maple sugar syrup on my French toast.”

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