Americans Overwhelmingly Prefer Fake Maple Syrup! Why?

It’s peak sugaring season in much of the Northeast, when the country’s maple syrup producers tap their trees to collect the sap that flows freely this time of year. It takes about 40 gallons of maple sap—and nothing else—to make one gallon of real maple syrup. By contrast, the artificial stuff—think Aunt Jemima and Mrs. Butterworth’s—is mostly corn syrup.

Fake maple syrup resembles real maple syrup about as much as Velveeta resembles a good Camembert. But when I asked 1,000 Americans which they preferred on their pancakes, the artificial brands won out big time. Just over 25 percent of respondents to an online Google Consumer Survey panel said that real maple syrup was their pancake topper of choice. Seventy percent chose either Aunt Jemima, Mrs. Butterworth’s, Log Cabin or Hungry Jack, while another three percent chose something else.

Looming behind this preference, of course, is the specter of price. A gallon of Mrs. Butterworth’s will set you back just under 8 bucks at Wal-Mart. A gallon of the real stuff, on the other hand, typically retails for anywhere from $40 to $60. The labor-intensive process of collecting and boiling down all of that sap is the reason the price is so high.

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And this process only happens on a commercial scale in the Northeast. Vermont is the nation’s undisputed King of Maple Syrup, accounting for more than 40 percent of the total U.S. output of over 3 million gallons in 2014, according to the USDA. Seven of the top 10 maple-producing counties are in Vermont. While New England states have the highest production levels, there’s a surprisingly robust maple syrup industry in states like Ohio, Wisconsin and Michigan, too.

Overall maple syrup output has risen sharply since about 2008 (thanks, Obama!), climbing by more than 50 percent since then. In 2013, the national maple industry’s output was worth about $132 million. For perspective, the legal marijuana industry in Colorado sold $700 million worth of weed last year. And our 3.3 million annual syrup gallons are just a fraction of the 12 million churned out in Canada, mostly by Quebec’s powerful syrup cartel.

Interestingly, the inflation-adjusted price of a gallon of real maple syrup hasn’t really budged in the past 20 years, hovering right around $40 since 1992. So some producers are getting creative in their search for more revenue. The latest innovation is a push to sell “maple water,“ which is really the raw sap, straight from the tree. Producers are marketing it as a competitor to coconut water, touting its alleged health benefits, and selling it under brand names like DRINKmaple, Vertical and SEVA.

While it has yet to catch on in a major way, a quick look at the numbers tells you all you need to know about why producers are pushing it aggressively. Say you have 40 gallons of maple sap on hand. You can boil that down to syrup and sell it at retail for about $40. Or, you could package it up into 16-ounce cartons and sell them for $3 each, which multiplied by eight cartons per gallon times 40 total gallons would yield $960 in revenue.

~~  Christopher Ingraham ~~

Bon Appétit: Carrot Cake – A Classic Easter Dessert Recast as Breakfast

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Makes 4 large waffles

For the ginger-raisin syrup:

1 cup packed brown sugar
½ cup water
1/3 cup golden raisins
2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
1 teaspoon dry ground ginger

For the waffles:

2 eggs
2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
¼ cup vegetable oil
8-ounce can crushed pineapple (not drained)
½ cup toasted, chopped walnuts
½ cup packed grated carrot
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon table salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Butter, optional


To make the syrup, in a small saucepan over medium-high, combine the brown sugar, water, raisins and both gingers. Bring to a simmer, stirring to combine, and heat until the sugar has dissolved. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside to steep.

Heat a waffle iron to medium-high. Heat the oven to 250 F.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, brown sugar, oil, pineapple, walnuts, carrot, buttermilk and vanilla. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Gently stir the dry ingredients into the liquid ingredients just until combined.

Spray the waffle iron with cooking spray and add 2/3 cup of batter, or an appropriate amount for your waffle iron. Cook as directed for your waffle iron, or until golden brown. Keep warm on a baking sheet in the oven while you cook the remaining waffles. Serve with butter, if desired, and the warm syrup.

Medieval Potion Able to Kill Superbug MRSA

BIRMINGHAM, England—Researchers at the University of Nottingham have resurrected a 1,000-year-old remedy for eye infections to combat a modern superbug. It turns out a Medieval Anglo-Saxon potion is capable of killing the antibiotic-resistant bacterium known as MRSA.

The 10th century potion’s recipe—which includes two species of Allium (garlic and onion or leek), wine and oxgall (the stomach bile of cow)—is sourced from Bald’s Leechbook, thought to be one of Western civilization’s earliest known medical textbooks. An Old English leather-bound manuscript of the text was located in the British Library.

“We chose this recipe in Bald’s Leechbook because it contains ingredients such as garlic that are currently investigated by other researchers on their potential antibiotic effectiveness,“ Christina Lee, a professor at the School of English at the University of Nottingham, explained in a video published by the university.

“And so we looked at a recipe that is fairly straightforward,“ Lee, an Anglo-Saxon expert, aded. “It’s also a recipe where we are told it’s the ‘best of leechdoms’—how could you not test that? So we were curious.“

Lee recruited colleagues from Nottingham’s Center for Biomolecular Sciences to recreate the ancient potion. Four fresh batches of the potion—brewed in a brass vessel as mandated by the text—were tested on a common MRSA strain, Staphylococcus aureus, both in synthetic wounds and infected mice wounds.

While none of the ingredients alone proved effective, when combined as directed by Bald’s Leechbook, the potion killed the bacterium with remarkable success—eliminating 999 MRSA cells for every one survivor.

Scientists also found that diluted forms of the potion did not kill the bacterium, but did disrupt the ability of the cells to communicate with each other. Researchers believe interfering with bacteria’s quorum sensing, its cell-cell communication process, may be a key strategy for combating infection in the near future.

“We were genuinely astonished at the results of our experiments in the lab,“ Lee said. “We believe modern research into disease can benefit from past responses and knowledge, which is largely contained in non-scientific writings.“

“But the potential of these texts to contribute to addressing the challenges cannot be understood without the combined expertise of both the arts and science,“ she concluded.

A reproduction of the experiment at Texas Tech University produced similarly promising results.

“We know that MRSA infected wounds are exceptionally difficult to treat in people and in mouse models,“ said Texas Tech researcher, Dr. Kendra Rumbaugh. “We have not tested a single antibiotic or experimental therapeutic that is completely effective; however, this ‘ancient remedy’ performed as good if not better than the conventional antibiotics we used.“

The new research was presented this week at this year’s Society for General Microbiology Annual Conference, held in Birmingham, England.

New Study Determines Exact Level of Drinking that Leads to Liver Cancer

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Consuming three alcoholic drinks a day can be enough to cause liver cancer, experts have said.

The World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) has pinpointed the level of drinking implicated in liver cancer after undertaking what it says was the biggest review so far of the evidence on the relationship between diet, weight, physical activity and the disease.

Its assessment of 34 previous studies covering 8.2 million people, more than 24,500 of whom had liver cancer, revealed “strong evidence” linking intake of three drinks a day to the disease. 

“Around three or more drinks per day can be enough to cause liver cancer,” said Amanda Mclean, director of the charity’s UK branch. “Until now we were uncertain about the amount of alcohol likely to lead to liver cancer. But the research reviewed in this report is strong enough, for the first time, to be more specific about this.”

The WCRF’s findings prompted the Alcohol Health Alliance, a coalition of health organisations, to claim that alcohol is so toxic that cans and bottles should carry health warnings.

“Alcohol, like tobacco and asbestos, is a class 1 carcinogen and it is totally unacceptable that the public is not provided with such basic information”, said Prof Sir Ian Gilmore, the alliance’s chair. 

“This report shows that there is no safe level of drinking when it comes to cancer prevention. It’s time for the government to take action to minimise the risk of harm, including ensuring that labels carry mandatory health warnings and lists of ingredients to standards that are developed independently from groups with vested interests.”

About one in 100 men and one in 200 women in Britain develop liver cancer at some point in their lifetime, and 4,703 people were diagnosed with it in 2012. It has one of the lowest survival rates among the 200 different types of cancer.

Women should try to limit themselves to no more than one drink a day and men to two in order to minimise their risk of the disease, the WCRF said. 

Dr Sarah Jarvis, a medical adviser to the drinks industry-funded education group Drinkaware, said: “To help reduce the risk of getting alcohol-related liver cancer, it’s best to drink within the lower-risk guidelines of 2-3 units a day for women – that’s a 175ml glass of 13% wine – or 3-4 units a day for men – a pint and a half of 4% beer.”

The report also pinpoints obesity as a risk factor for liver cancer. Almost one in four (24%) cases of the disease in the UK could be prevented if people kept to a normal weight and did not drink, it estimates. Liver cancer is now the tenth type of cancer that evidence has linked to excess weight. 

The WCRF’s analysis also found strong evidence that coffee could help protect against liver cancer, though it did not specify the amounts someone needs to drink. It has previously linked coffee to a reduced risk of womb cancer. 

Paul Pharoah, professor of cancer epidemialogy at Cambridge University, cast doubt on the WCRF’s findings. “I do not think that the published data are sufficiently robust to conclude that three drinks a day specifically is associated with an increased risk of primary liver cancer,” he said.

Two European studies among the 34 the WCRF examined showed that people consuming between one and three drinks a day were running no increased risk of liver cancer, but both found evidence that four or more drinks a day does worsen the chances of getting it, Pharoah added.

~~  Denis Campbell - The Guardian ~~


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