What's that smell? Oh, it's New Jersey!

Louis Lanzano/AP
Mayor Michael Bloomberg points to an area in New Jersey during a press conference at City Hall in New York. Several processing plants in Bergen and Hudson counties were found to be the source of a sweet smelling odor that has been present in New York City since 2005.

Woo-ooo that smell. Cantcha smell that smell?

That's what the folks of New York City have been saying (and singing, perhaps) for the past four years.

There's been a mysterious maple syrup odor that occasionally wafts into the city. And when it occurs? People wonder if it's SBD (silent but deadly).

No joke. When the smell first arrived back in 2005, it triggered fears of a chemical spill or biological terrorism, according to the New York Daily News.

Mystery solved

Today it's been solved.

It's New Jersey's fault.

Bloomberg to the rescue

New York City Mayor Bloomberg held a press conference this morning to announce the momentous news. Calling the search for the smell a lot like finding a needle in a haystack, Bloomberg hailed the crack investigators who solved the mystery.

"Air samples ... have confirmed that the odor in New York City was an ester associated with foenugreek seed processing," he said. "The Health Department confirmed that the odor does not pose a health risk, but I am pleased to know that our ... smelling sleuths got to the bottom of this mystery."


Fenugreek? You know that common ingredient in curry powders, and its extract is also used in artificial vanilla, caramel, butterscotch and maple flavorings. [Thanks to Newsday for knowing this]. Apparently a New Jersey food manufacturer called Frutarom cooks the stuff up.

The mayor said he never experienced the smell but added, "I do like maple sugar syrup on my french toast."

Early warning system

To better protect city residents perhaps there should be an early alert system in place? That's what the folks at the Gothamist thought (they live blogged the press conference).

"We just asked the Mayor if there was any thought of a maple syrup smell warning system—alerts when Frutarom processed the fenugreek seeds. He said no, so the next time we smell it we'll have to assume it's either from Frutarom or we're going crazy," writes Jen Chung.


The news that the not-so-bad odor came from Jersey -- specifically from North Bergen -- apparently delighted some in the New York media. Writes Sally Goldenberg at the New York Post, "This could be the first time a good smell has ever come from New Jersey."

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