Maple Syrup Fraud and How to Avoid It

Photo: hlkljgk/Flickr .

With orange and red leaves scattered on sidewalks, warm scarves making a first appearance on blustery days and stews and long cooked dishes on our tables, fall is most definitely here.

I especially love all of the fresh and beautiful fall ingredients we can enjoy like apples, squash and late fall dark greens. I also love to pull out a jar of pure maple syrup to sweeten my fall desserts. So I was recently dismayed to hear that pure maple syrup may not always be so pure after all!

Businesses and individuals have been caught selling inferior maple syrup or, even worse, a product that’s not maple syrup at all as “Vermont Maple Syrup.” Not only is this dishonest practice tricking consumers, but also it is unfair to the real Vermont maple syrup producers who work hard to sell a high-quality product. For someone like my family who has sensitivities to cane sugar, consuming cane syrup masquerading as maple syrup could lead to stomachaches and other issues.

To address this dishonest practice, Sens. Patrick Leahy from Vermont and Susan Collins from Maine introduced the Maple Agriculture Protection and Law Enforcement, or MAPLE Act. If passed, it will increase the punishment for selling fraudulent maple syrup up to a five year maximum sentence.

Meanwhile, I’ve wondered what I can do to make sure that I am buying pure maple syrup. Generally speaking, I try to support local farmers. But since we don’t have the climate for maple syrup, it’s not available locally. I also like to buy from small farms online, but it occurred to me that small businesses are just as likely to be dishonest as large ones, especially online.

However, a maple syrup producer’s son emailed me once explaining why he felt that everyone should buy from small maple syrup farms. He explained that large companies bought inferior maple syrup and added just enough high quality syrup to make grade A or B. This is how they sell their product for a cheaper price. He pleads, "If you care about the taste and quality of your maple syrup, please buy from a real farmer! It’s totally worth the extra couple of dollars."

From an insider’s perspective, he felt that the organic label helpful because “certified organic farms still have to adhere to stricter regulations concerning lead in equipment, types of filtering agents, and bans on chemical defoamers. And we also have to work with certified foresters to ensure the sustainable management of our forest land, promote tree health and biodiversity, and reduce erosion."

In the end, buying from a company or small farm you can trust is the way to go. I especially like to buy from companies that are U.S. based to support my country’s economy.

One brand that I like is Coombs Family Farm. Not only do they have award-winning maple syrup, but they also support small farmers. Better yet, it’s widely available. A local group in my area is buying maple syrup from a small Amish farm that taps its own maple syrup. Small farms like this are a gem to find. (Being part of a Weston A Price Chapter Group can often help you connect to farmers like this).

I look forward to using real, pure maple syrup from brands I trust this fall and winter, and I am hoping that better laws are put into place to catch dishonest businesses.