MAPLE Act Would Make Selling Fake Maple Syrup a Felony

Some Northeastern Senators want to make selling fake maple syrup a federal offense.

Some Northeastern Senators want to make selling fake maple syrup a federal offense.

The Hill (“Senate bill would make selling fake maple syrup a felony offense“):

Six senators introduced legislation that would make selling fake maple syrup a felony offense leading to fines and up to five years in prison.

The Maple Agriculture Protection and Law Enforcement (MAPLE) Act is a response to what chief sponsor Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and others say is the increasing practice of cheating Vermont, Upstate New York and other maple syrup regions by selling inferior, fake syrup.

“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 Thursday. “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.”
He added that others in the syrup-producing regions of Maine, New York and other states also have been hurt. Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) are all co-sponsors.

Under current law, selling fake maple syrup is a misdemeanor offense.

Under the bill, S. 1742, selling fake maple syrup would be listed as an act of fraud that is seen as a felony offense, along with falsifying bank entries, mortgage transactions, loan applications and citizenship records, along with dozens of other activities.

Doug Powers is having a lot of fun with this one.

When it comes to sap, there’s no group of senators I trust more to know their stuff.

Selling fake maple syrup is currently merely a misdemeanor, but if the “Syrup Six” have their way, it will be a felony, and the following conversation may soon take place in a high security prison near you:

“What’cha in for?”

“Armed robbery. You?”

“Counterfeit waffle topping.”

His commenters pile on with such gems as, “Do you think maybe if we buttered those guys up they wouldn’t be so cranky?” and “I heard Eric Holder is involved by allowing fake maple syrup to be run across the Canadian Border — code named “Slow and Sticky.”

It’s true that the scourge of fake syrup is hardly at the top of the national agenda, what with a global recession, sky high unemployment, and more wars than you can shake a stick at. Still, this certainly seems like a perfectly valid case of Senators representing the legitimate interests of their constituents and bringing an issue to the national debate. Presumably, those who bother to manufacture and sell fake maple syrup do so on a large scale, so I don’t have any problem treating it as a felony; it is, after all, deliberate fraud. And, to the extent the sales are going across state lines, it’s actually a real federal issue. Vermont can’t very well arrest people in Arkansas for selling “Authentic Vermont Maple Syrup” that’s neither authentic, maple, nor made in Vermont.

Amusingly, however, I vastly prefer Mrs. Butterworth’s to actual maple syrup. I find the former’s taste much more complex and texture more conducive to coating breakfast products, whereas the latter is essentially liquid sugar and horrifically sweet. But that’s not marketed as “maple syrup,” so presumably the Mrs. is safe.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. John Burgess says:

    Nope, I’m the 100% maple syrup type as that’s what I grew up on in New England. I prefer the lower grades, the Grade-B and -C, though. Probably because those are what I actually grew up on.

    I don’t think faking maple syrup should be a felony, however. Rather, a significant fine–say, $10K per container–would serve to shut down the counterfeiters.

    It would also have served the NE congresscritters’ purpose to name those counterfeiters and the stores that stock the fake syrup. That would have allowed the market to fix the problem.

  2. john personna says:

    A little funny, but hardly a precedent.

    An undercover buyer bought “Disco Especial Con Mejor De Lo Mejor,” a CD containing 148 songs, for $3 from Maria Petra Garcia on Saturday morning. Garcia was arrested and the authorities seized 308 counterfeit CD’s. At around the same time, a Recording Industry Association of America investigator found a booth operated by Rafael Castillo-Aguilar also selling counterfeit recordings. Castillo-Aguilar was arrested in possession of 256 DVD’s and 1091 CD’s, on sale for $4 each. Both face felony charges for intent to sell over 100 counterfeit audio and visual items.

    FWIW, I’d be more concerned that “Vermont Maple Syrup” is actually “Maple Syrup” than actually “Vermont.” But that’s just me. I am obviously not the Vermont trade association.

  3. lou91940 says:

    Doesn’t it become a felony when the total dollar amount exceeds a limit. Aside from false advertising of a corn syrup product with artificial flavoring….what would prevent someone like the Chinese from taking over that market.

    I know you are laughing at the thought……..but I live in Calif. and my local ( cheap prices) supermarket sells ordinary frozen vegetable mixes and common items as cauliflower, broccoli, garlic, lettuce, peas….just routine stuff normally grown in the Calif. central valley…..but now imported from China.

    No it isn’t a felony, but it is a bite out of the local growers market. I’m not against protecting American growers….our own local Calif. Gravenstein apple growers have almost been wiped out by the Australian shipments of a Granny Smith variety.

    I also prefer grade B maple syrup for the stronger flavor and darker color.

  4. John Burgess says:

    @lou91940: I’d certainly bitch at the market for shunning local growers. If there were an alternative, I’d shop there instead.

    My local market has mostly imported fish–Taiwan, Thailand, Bangladesh–as prices 1/3 that of the local Whole Food. But then, I can go to a local fish place and find fish that was swimming this morning or maybe yesterday. That costs about the same as Whole Food and I know where it came from. Since I’m in FL, the produce tends to be seasonally local, but the rest of the year it’s coming from wherever’s cheapest, I guess…

    @John Personna: I don’t think the problem is provenance — those New Englanders get along with each other pretty well (except for the Massholes, of course). The issue is that corn syrup|cane syrup + flavoring does not equal maple syrup. It’s out-and-out fraud to sell the one as the other.

    I’m still going for the $10K fine per bottle of falsity.

  5. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Amusingly, however, I vastly prefer Mrs. Butterworth’s to actual maple syrup. I find the former’s taste much more complex and texture more conducive to coating breakfast products, whereas the latter is essentially liquid sugar and horrifically sweet. But that’s not marketed as “maple syrup,” so presumably the Mrs. is safe.

    The image of that perp-walk just popped into my head… Thanx JJ, made my Sunday morn complete.

  6. grumpy realist says:

    I’m surprised they’re not using standard fraud and food adulteration statutes to go after these critters. Why pass separate legislation?

    Am also amused because I’ve heard the bulk of so-called “Vermont Maple Syrup” is actually produced in New York. Check the next syrup bottle you pick up–bet you there’s nothing about the location of manufacture.

    And anyone who prefers the fake stuff to the real–well, you obviously didn’t grow up in New England. A lot of us in the rural areas made our own–our family used to produce two gallons or more each year just off the seven maple trees surrounding the house. On a good day when the sap was running well, the pint buckets would be filled in 30 minutes.

  7. @grumpy realist:

    Why pass separate legislation?

    Because Patrick Leahy, the senior Senator from Vermont, has been in the Senate since 1975. That’s my guess.

  8. grumpy realist says:

    Oh, and the difference between the different grades I think is due more to when the sap is collected. Our trees would start off with sap that produced a very light, Chardonnay colored syrup, then as the days continued the syrup would get steadily darker and darker until you stopped when the trees started budding–when the syrup turned bitter.
    I’ve always thought the “Grade A” version is like what the French do with Beaujolais Nouveau–unwanted stuff to palm off on the tourists.

  9. Rob in CT says:

    I like the Dark Amber. Mmmm…

  10. Franklin says:

    @Doug Mataconis: I came here to ask grumpy realist’s question. I was also basically curious on how generic fraud laws work. I mean, to say that this is not real maple syrup, somewhere there has to be a definition of what maple syrup is, right?

  11. I am reminded of Germany’s “purity law” (Reinheitsgebot) regarding what could legally be marketed as beer. It dates to 1487, codified in 1516, and was only recently overridden by EU regulations (another thing the EU has screwed up). By this law, in Germany only beverages made from water, barley and hops and nothing else could be called “beer.” When I was stationed in Germany in the 1980s, specialty brewers got around the law by adding a modifying adjective before the word beer, such as “wheat beer” (which is truly gross).

    Interestingly, alcohol-free beer legally was beer since the law did not mention yeast, an essential component of alcohol fermentation. The olden brewers did use yeast but didn’t know they did.

    As for syrup, I too do not care very much for pure maple for two reasons. I don’t think the taste is not all it’s cracked up to be and it’s too dang expensive. Butterworth’s is good, but the best pancake syrup I have ever had was Butter Pecan syrup from a little store in Lynchburg, Tenn., where is located the Jack Daniels Distillery. The syrup was not cheap, either, probably because it is sold as a tourist item, bearing a label closely resembling that of Jack Daniels black label whiskey. But man is it good syrup, and the cost is mitigated by the fact that you don’t have to use nearly as much.

    Around here, Kroger sells butter pecan syrup, too, but I have not had that, just the Lynchburg stuff.

  12. Joe Douchette says:

    @Donald Sensing:

    I agree. But think good maple syrup beats the fake stuff. What about restaurants that advertise maple syrup with pancakes, and when you get them, it is full of cheap crap?

    I hate getting duped at a restaurant where I am paying more than $3 for pancakes or french toast. If they say maple syrup, there had damned well better be the real stuff, not the cheap sugar syrup they give you. Phony sumbeeotches!