Canada's federal government is hoping to improve the quality of maple syrup by funding a $1.7-million initiative to develop a special tool to test the quality of maple syrup.

For five years, Quebec's Maple Research Centre has been developing a machine that could taste test the product.

Human taste testers try sampling an average of 250 barrels of syrup a day. These machines would do the work for them by calculating how certain compounds in the syrup react to light.

Depending on results, the new technology will determine if sugar has been added to the syrup or if there are taste defects in the batch.

Luc Lagacé, a researcher who has been developing the tool, said it will improve Canada's reputation in the maple industry.

"We have a guarantee of quality for this product," he said.

Most of the federal grant will be used for research to help determine the exact compounds of maple syrup.

Geneviève Béland, member of the Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers [FQMSP], said research shows that maple products have anti-oxidants, vitamins and minerals. But researchers believe the golden treat may have other health advantages.

If these benefits are discovered, the FQMSP said it would recommend using maple sugar in special diets, such as those of athletes and some diabetics.