New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg today announced that the city had solved a years-old mystery, pinpointing the source of a maple syrup smell that has occasionally wafted into town since 2005. The harmless scent, Bloomberg said, is "the result of the manufacturing of fragrances and food flavors" in a New Jersey plant.

The North Bergen facility belongs to a company called Frutarom, based in Haifa, Israel, that apparently processes the seeds of the herb fenugreek. (Bloomberg noted that other facilities may also contribute to the smell, but Frutarom seems to have been responsible for the most recent occurrence, in January.) The seeds contain an aromatic compound, sotolone, that is also found in maple syrup, so they are sometimes used to produce imitation syrup flavoring.

During a news conference at city hall, Bloomberg showed on a map how citizen reports and readings of wind direction helped pinpoint the odoriferous culprit. "Given the evidence, I think it's safe to say that the mystery of the maple syrup mist has finally been solved," he said. But since the scent poses no health hazards and Frutarom does not appear to be in violation of any laws, the mayor said, "it just happens to be one of the aromas we will have to live with."

Photo of fenugreek seeds by Sanjay Acharya via Wikimedia Commons