10.20.11

Leahy, Collins, Sanders, Snowe, and Others Propose MAPLE Act

Bill Would Make Selling Fraudulent Maple Syrup A Felony Offense

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) introduced legislation Thursday to make the fraudulent sale of maple syrup a felony offense.  The legislation is cosponsored by Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).  The bill is called the Maple Agriculture Protection and Law Enforcement (MAPLE) Act.

“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,” said Leahy.  “This is fraud, plain and simple, and it undermines a key part of Vermont’s economy.  I know that hardworking syrup producers in Maine, New York and other states have been similarly hurt by this crime.  Our bill will deter this criminal conduct.”

“Maine is the third largest producer of pure maple syrup in the country, producing more than 360,000 gallons this year, and bringing in nearly $11 million to our state each year,” said Collins.  “Fake labeling not only hurts this growing agricultural industry, but also defrauds consumers who have the right to know exactly what they are purchasing.”

“We are very proud of the high-quality maple syrup produced in Vermont,”  said Sanders.  “Some of us think it’s the best in the world. We think it is terribly wrong for people to produce a phony product and call it Vermont maple syrup.”

The MAPLE Act creates a felony offense carrying a five-year maximum penalty for fraudulently selling maple syrup that is not, in fact, maple syrup.  Under current law, the sale of this fraudulent maple syrup is only a misdemeanor offense carrying only on a one-year penalty.  Vermont U.S. Attorney Tris Coffin recently sought an indictment against a Rhode Island man who, as revealed by a Food and Drug Administration investigation, was selling cane sugar-based syrup as “maple” syrup.

The MAPLE Act is cosponsored by Senator Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) and New York Senators Chuck Schumer (D) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D).

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Statement of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.),
Chairman, Senate Judiciary Committee,

On Introduction of The MAPLE Act

October 20, 2011

I am pleased to be joined by Senators Collins, Schumer, Sanders and Gillibrand as we introduce this legislation to hold accountable those criminals who fraudulently sell what they call “maple” syrup. 

Vermont iconic maple syrup -- painstakingly produced, and prized across the Nation and beyond -- is one of our state’s fine, high-quality, natural products.  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.  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.  I know that diligent syrup producers in Maine, New York and other states have been similarly hurt by this crime.  Our bill, the Maple Agriculture Protection and Law Enforcement -- or “MAPLE” Act -- will deter this criminal conduct.

The MAPLE Act creates a felony offense with a five-year maximum penalty for fraudulently selling a product purported to be maple syrup that is not, in fact, maple syrup.  Under current law, doing so is only a misdemeanor offense with a one year penalty.

The sale of fraudulent maple syrup is a real problem facing consumers and producers.  Recently, Vermont U.S. Attorney Tris Coffin sought an indictment after a Food and Drug Administration investigation revealed that a Rhode Island man had been selling cane sugar-based syrup as “maple” syrup and representing to consumers that the syrup was authentic.  The legislation we introduce today will more effectively protect consumers and the maple industry by punishing and deterring this deceptive conduct.

Vermonters – and consumers across the country – should be confident that when they buy food, they know exactly what they are getting.  The fines that may result from criminal violations under current law are often not enough to protect the public from harmful or fraudulent products.  Too often, those who are willing to endanger our livelihoods in pursuit of their profits see fines as just a cost of doing business.  We need to make sure that those who intentionally deceive consumers get a trip to jail, not a slap on the wrist.  Schemers should not easily be able to sully the seal of quality that is associated with genuine Vermont maple syrup.

I have a longstanding commitment to comprehensive food safety and food integrity reforms, and our work is not done.  Earlier this year, the Senate unanimously passed my Food Safety Accountability Act, which would hold those criminals who intentionally poison our food supply accountable for their crimes.  I urge the House to pass that noncontroversial bill, and I hope that all Senators will join us in supporting the MAPLE Act.

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