Sweet victory: Maple syrup producers cheer labelling law
Maple syrup bottles are seen on a shelf at the Morse Farm Maple Sugarworks in East Montpelier, Vt., on Feb. 25, 2009. (AP / Toby Talbot)
Andy Johnson, CTVNews.ca
Published Thursday, October 27, 2011 7:13PM EDT
Canadian maple syrup producers are welcoming a proposed new U.S. law that would make it a felony offence to use the word "maple" in products that don't live up to federal standards for purity.
The Maple Agriculture Protection and Law Enforcement Act, or MAPLE for short, was tabled recently by U.S. senators Patrick Leahy and Susan Collins, from the maple-producing states of Vermont and Maine.
In a statement, Leahy and Collins both said it's unfair to allow products that includes additives such as cane or beet-based sugar to be labelled as maple syrup.
"Vermonters take pride in the natural products our state produces, and 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 said in the statement.
"This is fraud, plain and simple, and it undermines a key part of Vermont's economy... Our bill will deter this criminal conduct."
Collins added that Maine produces 360,000 gallons of maple and is the third largest producer of the product in the U.S., bringing in US$11 million per year. The bottom line, she said, is that legitimate producers deserve to be protected.
The MAPLE Act, if passed, would legislate a five-year maximum prison term for fraudulently selling maple syrup "that is not, in fact, maple syrup."
Currently the offence is considered a misdemeanor and carries a one-year maximum penalty.
Ray Bonenberg, president of the Ontario Maple Syrup Producers Association, said the proposed law is good news for Canadian producers, who are already under strict provincial and federal regulations to ensure products labelled as 'maple syrup' are the real deal.
In addition to those laws, the industry often sends random samples of products purchased off store shelves to testing labs, to monitor purity levels.
He said there are 12 maple syrup-producing states in the U.S. and laws vary widely in each one.
Maine, Vermont, Ohio, New Hampshire, and Pennsylvania have legislation in place, while Connecticut, Massachusetts, Wisconsin, Indiana, Minnesota, Rhode Island and Maryland do not.
"As an industry we want to make sure we maintain the integrity of that product, Bonenberg told CTVNews.ca.
"We want to make sure that if anyone is even remotely buying something that says maple on it, that the facts are clear, that somebody's not saying 'I'm selling maple syrup,' and it's totally cane sugar, because that's false advertising."
Bonenberg said a distributor based in Rhode Island, where labelling laws are absent, had been selling a product that contained a high percentage of cane sugar.
"It angered enough people, both consumers and producer associations, that they lobbied a couple of senators," Bonenberg said.
The statement from Leahy and Collins refers to the Vermont U.S. Attorney Tris Coffin seeking an indictment against a Rhode Island retailer who was found, through a Food and Drug Administration investigation, to be selling a cane-syrup based product which he advertised as pure maple syrup.
The legislation is co-sponsored by Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, and New York senators Chuch Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand.
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