With a production rate of over a million gallons per year – around half of total U.S. production – it’s no surprise that Vermont takes its maple syrup very, very seriously. Falsely advertising a product as containing maple syrup isn’t just frowned upon in Vermont: it’s actually a misdemeanor, and a law the state will not hesitate to enforce (it took McDonald’s to task earlier this year for the disturbing lack of maple in its Fruit and Maple Oatmeal). But is a misdemeanor punishment enough? Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy says no, and has introduced the Maple Agriculture Protection and Law Enforcement Act – otherwise known as the MAPLE Act – which would make the sale of imitation maple syrup a felony worth of up to five years in prison.
“I have been alarmed by the growing number of individuals and businesses claiming to sell Vermont maple syrup when they are in fact selling an inferior product that is not maple syrup at all,” Leahy told CNN. Does that mean an end to Mrs. Butterworth-type corn syrups that currently line our grocery shelves? Not really. While people may assume she’s maple syrup out of habit, Mrs. Butterworth never exactly claims to be anything other than what she is – a “thick-n-rich” butter flavored pancake syrup.
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Rather, the MAPLE Act is going after true imposters who package cheaper sugar syrups (or, more insidiously, chemicals and flavorings) and sell them as the real deal. It’s a more common occurrence than one might think. Just last week an FDA investigation made news for uncovered a Rhode Island man has been packaging and selling cheap cane sugar syrup under the guise of real maple syrup. It’s these types of impostors that Leahy hopes to target with this piece of legislation. “We need to make sure that those who intentionally deceive consumers get a trip to jail, not a slap on the wrist,” noted Leahy.
While Vermont’s Senator Leahy is spearheading the MAPLE Act campaign, he is not without support. Senator Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe (Maine), Kirsten Gillibrand and Charles Schumer (New York), and Bernie Sanders (Vermont) are co-sponsoring the legislation.