Maple syrup fraud?
While maple syrup is generally regarded as a Vermont staple, the syrup industry has become very important in Maine. Senators from both states, as well as from New York, recently proposed a Maple Agriculture Protection and Law Enforcement (MAPLE) Act to help protect the business.
Under the current legislation, the increasingly common marketing of imitation maple syrup, which is not produced though the traditional method of tapping trees and boiling the sap, as genuine maple syrup is classified as a misdemeanor and is punishable by up to one year in prison. If the senators successfully pass the MAPLE Act, the same product misrepresentation would become a felony that is punishable by up to five years in prison.
The MAPLE Act was created after maple syrup companies marketing genuine maple syrup were found guilty of selling fake maple syrup. This fake “maple syrup” uses a blend of corn and/or cane syrups, natural and artificial flavorings and other substances to imitate the taste and texture of genuine syrup, although the product is far inferior in quality. Maple syrup companies have turned to this method because it offers a cheaper alternative to the labor-intensive process of tapping trees.
Producing genuine maple syrup involves a considerable investment in equipment and time, as workers must collect 40 to 50 gallons of maple sap in order to produce one gallon of syrup. The process of producing syrup is also confined to certain seasons, as particular weather conditions are necessary for sap to flow effectively. Companies must also consider the cost of fuel to boil the syrup once it has been harvested.
Given these constraints, maple syrup sells for a relatively high price, and cost-conscious consumers usually seek cheaper imitation syrups as alternatives. However, some of these imitations are being marketed as the real thing, and senators in support of the MAPLE Act advocate that consumers have the right to know the truth.
The senators co-sponsoring the bill include Maine’s own Susan Collins, Patrick Leahy and Bernie Sanders from Vermont and Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand from New York. The states they represent produce over 60 percent of the maple syrup made in the United States.
“I have been alarmed by the growing number of individuals and businesses claiming to sell genuine Vermont maple syrup when they are in fact selling an inferior product that is not maple syrup at all,” Leahy said in a public statement on October 20. “This is fraud, plain and simple, and it undermines a key part of Vermont’s economy and reputation for quality that has been hard-earned through Vermonters’ hard work.”
“People are serious about their pride in maple syrup [in Maine],” Maine native Spencer Traylor ’15 said. “It’s one of the few things produced [in the state]. There is a maple syrup industry in Maine, and a culture around that industry,” which the MAPLE Act seeks to protect.