Man Sentenced To Two Years Of Probation For Selling Fake Vermont Maple Syrup

As we’ve written before, the people of Vermont take their maple syrup very seriously. Just ask the Rhode Island man who has been sentenced to two years of probation for selling plain old cane sugar syrup as authentic stuff from the Green Mountain State.

The case goes back to 2009, reports the Boston Globe, when a man from Vermont paid $220.50 in an online auction for what had been advertised as real Vermont maple syrup.

But as just about anyone who has compared authentic maple syrup with what most of us drown our Eggos in, the two products look and taste quite different from each other.

The man asked the Vermont Dept. of Agriculture and Consumer Protection to test his purchase to confirm it was indeed made from cane sugar.

At this point it became a matter for the FDA and the USDA, which eventually located the man and found he was making his own cane sugar syrup out of his home in Rhode Island.

He was arrested last fall and entered a guilty plea in a federal court on Tuesday. The judge, saying the man “capitalized on the market appeal of Vermont maple syrup,” sentenced him to two years of probation for “introducing adulterated food into interstate commerce with the intent to defraud or mislead.”

He also faces several hundred dollars in fines for his action.

In early 2011, McDonald’s found itself in hot water with Vermont for selling a “fruit and maple oatmeal” item that didn’t use actual maple syrup.

And it’s not just Vermont that wants to crack down on “maple” syrup. Last October, U.S. Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, both of New York, sponsored a bill that would make it a felony — punishable by up to five years in prison — to label a product “maple syrup” if isn’t actually made from maple syrup.

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  1. Costner says:

    Wow… he found himself in a rather sticky situation there.

  2. n0th1ng says:

    I agree with the sentence. Once you have hard the real shit you won’t even want the so called “pancake syrup” crap they sell in stores.

    • dpeters11 says:

      Agreed. Personally, I love Grade B maple syrup.

    • Madapple says:

      Gotta be honest – I have tried real maple syrup on more than one occasion and did NOT enjoy it.
      Maybe because I grew up with Mrs Butterworth’s.

      I was actually disappointed and figured I must have gotten a bad batch, tried again a few years later and found it to be just as disappointing.

      • crispyduck13 says:

        I also do not care for real maple syrup. Haven’t tried it in many years, if it wasn’t $10 a f*cking bottle I might give it another go.

        • Such an Interesting Monster says:

          I’m with you two. I mean, it’s not bad, but it’s certainly not eye-rollingly good either. And considering the price it’s a no-go for me. And I too have tried multiple brands and qualities, none of which blew my socks off enough to justify the price.

          As horrible as it may sound my go-to syrup these days is the Walmart brand butter flavor.

          • GrimJack says:

            Ugh, that’s pretty raw…

            Almost to equivalent to saying “well, I tried Kobe beef, but it wasn’t worth the price. I just eat rat instead…”

            • Auron says:

              The Kobe beef sold/marketed in the US isn’t really Kobe beef.

              • guspaz says:

                Indeed, but I’ve had the opportunity to have real Kobe beef (well, it better well have been, I was in Kobe at the time). It cost a small fortune, but it was worth every penny. It’s way more than I’d ever spend on a normal meal, but I figured, what the heck, it’s a once in a lifetime thing.

        • Janus, Should I laugh or cry? says:

          “I also do not care for real maple syrup. Haven’t tried it in many years, if it wasn’t $10 a f*cking bottle I might give it another go.”

          You could, of course, just go up to your farmer neighbor with your own container during sugaring season and get a few gallons for a nominal fee. Worked for me. (How narcissistic is that?).

          Why people think that ‘A’ grade is the cat’s pajamas is a mystery to me; it’s just sugary sweet. I prefer the darkest sludge I could find.

      • edman007 says:

        Most of the real stuff has a very strong maple flavor compared to the fake crap, if you get the extra light real maple syrup it tastes much more like the stuff you’re use too, but it’s runny and clear. I’d recommend anyone not use to the real stuff start with the extra light and work their way up from there.

      • Emily says:

        I don’t like the real thing either. It’s too sweet.

    • Princess Beech loves a warm cup of treason every morning says:

      Ditto. I’m for Grade A Dark Amber. Once I had a taste of the real deal I tossed out my bottle of Mrs Butterworth’s. I love the mild, woodsy maple taste.

    • trencherman says:

      I’m not a maple syrup fan. It’s caro mixed with Godiva liqueur and a splash of vanilla vodka for me.

  3. Coffee says:

    I cannot for the life of me decide how I feel about this. One the one hand, Vermont should be able to protect its most famous export. On the other, however, who knows how much money it took to successfully see this case to its conclusion? IMO, that’s money that could be better spend on other things, like erecting an enormous water slide in my backyard.

    • Blueskylaw says:

      I would rather use the money to buy a train horn and install it in my car; to be used especially on people who blow through a STOP sign right in front of you but then do 15 miles below the speed limit in order to be a safe driver.

      • Coffee says:

        OMG I’d be willing to redirect some of my tax dollars toward that. If you post the ensuing accidents you cause on youtube.com, I’ll uncheck “education” when I file taxes next year and enter “train horn for blueskylaw”. That’s how taxes work, right? I mean, that was a hypothetical question. Of course it is. I file tax returns every year!

        • Blueskylaw says:

          You can probably guess by my post that this just happened to me. The only thing that could have made it worse was for them to have given me the middle finger after cutting me off.

      • StarKillerX says:

        Oh, that’s not that expensive, basically they are just large air horns, one of the guys I work with has one in his truck and he has it powered by a compressed air tank which he tops off at home whenever he needs to.

        An alternate solution would be a wiring a small air compressor and tank up in the back somewhere.

    • There's room to move as a fry cook says:

      It’s fraud, it’s illegal, and and it’s a health risk. Food labels should accurately state the ingredients.

    • Princess Beech loves a warm cup of treason every morning says:

      Or, better yet, a maple syrup slide. Mmmmm.

    • YouDidWhatNow? says:

      You had me at “erecting.”

  4. chucklesjh says:

    To be fair, I’m pretty sure most places label it as Maple Flavored Syrup nowadays.

  5. Blueskylaw says:

    Last year I actually got to boil down my own sap at my friends house. The syrup was so good that even the “real” stuff you buy from stores doesn’t taste as good (especially after having 8 hours of sweat equity invested in it).

    • Fubish says: I don't know anything about it, but it seems to me... says:

      The “real” stuff you get in a supermarket is usually a commercial blend from multiple suppliers. Look for syrup from a local farm. Our local Vermont supermarkets sell the commercial stuff but also syrup from local people. And Canadian syrup? Fuggedaboudit! It’s pasteurized.

      • guspaz says:

        Maple syrup is produced by boiling down tree sap… By definition, all maple syrup (from anywhere) is pasteurized. Unpasteurized maple syrup wouldn’t be syrup, it’d be sap.

        That said, Quebec produces 80-85% of the world’s supply of maple syrup, so there is definitely some variation in the quality.

        • Fubish says: I don't know anything about it, but it seems to me... says:

          Maple sap is boiled at 220 degrees F to produce maple syrup.

          Maple syrup from Quebec is pasteurized AFTER it’s been produced. Pasteurization typically is at 275 degrees F.

          • Janus, Should I laugh or cry? says:

            Real maple syrup goes bad if not refrigerated after opening.

            If you have a layer of gross slimy mold on top of the unrefrigerated maple syrup, don’t throw it out! Slowly heat up the maple syrup in a pot until the yucky stuff floats to the surface and skim it off. Now it’s as good as new. Put syrup into a fresh container. Remember to keep refrigerated.

    • BorkBorkBork says:

      Amen to that. It never tastes as good as fresh out of the boiler.

  6. Buckus says:

    So…dude gets 2 years for making fake syrup, banks get $1 Trillion for making fake mortgages. This dude was doing it wrong…

    • crispyduck13 says:

      Interesting point. Isn’t America great?

    • A.Mercer says:

      I expect Rod Serling to step out at any second to give a little of monologue introducing us to the Twilight Zone.

      • Buckus says:

        Hell, Rod Serling would probably be wondering if the USA was somehow transported to backwards land these days. RIP.

  7. Invader Zim says:

    Glad to see something of real importance being championed as a real important issue?
    “Last October, U.S. Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, both of New York, sponsored a bill that would make it a felony — punishable by up to five years in prison — to label a product “maple syrup” if isn’t actually made from maple syrup.”

    • Fubish says: I don't know anything about it, but it seems to me... says:

      Feh. New York syrup.

      • Cat says:

        Don’t be so all high and mighty there. You know as well as I that the two states share the same border, and harvest from the same trees in the same forests.

        • Fubish says: I don't know anything about it, but it seems to me... says:

          Most Vermont maple syrup comes from sugarbushes away from the NY border. The maple sap in the north to south Green Mountain range is higher in invert sugar so it’s sweeter, tastier, and more satisying. I live in the northern Greens – some candy companies pay a premium for our maple syrup because of this.

        • Applekid ┬──┬ ノ( ã‚œ-゜ノ) says:

          I just like the idea of another round of commercials where cowboys around the campfire shout “New York City?!” with indignation.

        • abruke says:

          Yes, but once Mayor Bloomberg passes the law that no syrup can be sold in a bottle larger than 16 oz., the cross border black market trade for bigger bottles will REALLY take off!

  8. Bort says:

    I don’t necessarily disagree with this case, but there are much bigger fish out there to fry

  9. Tim says:

    Probation? He got off easy.

    • Applekid ┬──┬ ノ( ã‚œ-゜ノ) says:

      There’s a storm coming, though.

  10. LisetteKoopman says:

    And yet sushi restaurants get away with this everyday…

  11. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    How much syrup do you get for $220?

    • Fast Eddie Eats Bagels says:

      I hope it’s at lease one of those 5 gal jugs that I can plop into my water cooler and either have hot syrup or cold syrup.

      • Applekid ┬──┬ ノ( ã‚œ-゜ノ) says:

        Someone give this man a Nobel prize

    • Fubish says: I don't know anything about it, but it seems to me... says:

      About 14-1/2 quarts – at $15 each. I sell to people I know for $12/qt.

      • Maltboy wanders aimlessly through the Uncanny Valley says:

        How do I get to know you? :)

        • Rifter says:

          Hahaha… I read that, and thought the SAME thing. I’ve always heard Maple is better, but have only had “Maple flavored”. Out west here, Maple is expensive.

          • BorkBorkBork says:

            I’m working in Las Vegas, but I’m from NH. My parents are shipping over some stuff, and they asked me if I wanted anything else in the box. My one request: a bottle of local maple syrup.

            Once you’ve had the real stuff, Aunt Jemima’s just tastes like bottled diabeetus.

  12. Doubting thomas says:

    For all those out there in the “shouldn’t the government be doing different things with it’s time and money” camp.
    Please shut up.
    There are tens of thousands of people in State and federal governments. This allows the government to do more than one thing at a time. yes it probably cost more to prosecute this person than he cause financial harm, who cares? the criminal court system is not a for-profit enterprise. What if Bill gates was murdering a homeless drug addict felon at every city he went to while writing million dollar checks for charities. should he get off because it would do financial harm to prosecute him?

    • calicopaisley says:

      I like how someone above put it. It is a health risk. Nuff said!

    • JHDarkLeg says:

      The reason people are complaining is because the government usually does not give a rats ass if you are scammed in an online auction. At best police will smirk at you while you waste your time filing a report which you’re only doing so you can get the insurance money. But if the scam involves maple syrup, all of a sudden the government cares.

      If you believe it’s due to health reasons, your sorely mistaken, as evidenced by the countless non-sanitary restaurants I’ve gone to displaying valid health permits. No, they only take action as a demonstration to the Vermont maple syrup industry.

      • edman007 says:

        The government doesn’t, but the Vermont maple sryup people do quite a lot of lobbying and they have a lot of money to to back it up with. That’s why the did something about it.

    • Libertas says:

      Yes.

  13. comatose says:

    AND the bank, bankers, mortgage companies, etc. Get slap on the wrist and a bailout…JUSTICE FOR ALL.

  14. SkokieGuy says:

    He has filed an appeal and has requested FDA approval to market his home made cane sugar syrup as “Vermont Tree Sugar”.

    • crispyduck13 says:

      I wish we had Comment of the Day.

    • Blueskylaw says:

      High Fructose Tree Syrup?

    • cybrczch says:

      With a series of commercials showing parents walking with their children through sun-dappled forests, talking about how they were confused about ‘Vermont Tree Sugar’ until they talked with researchers and looked online.

  15. Cat says:

    If the state of Vermont take maple syrup forgery so seriously, I can’t imagine what kind of punishment the Canadians would mete out to such a rapscallion.

    • Fubish says: I don't know anything about it, but it seems to me... says:

      He would be sent a strongly worded letter requesting him to desist.

      • crispyduck13 says:

        If the warning went ignored he’d be given 20 lashes with a pine needle and sent to ride backward on a donkey for 1km.

    • lehrdude says:

      Just try to sell some ham, and call it Canadian Bacon…

      I double-dog-dare you!

    • calicopaisley says:

      On a less sardonic note I reckon the Canadian repurcussions are not half as bad. For one I think it’s much easier/cheaper to find Canadian maple syrup in general — and this is exactly why Vermont is so adamant about protecting real Vermont maple syrup, so that it doesn’t get overrun by the Canadian competition. Check any range of bottles at a given grocery store and see how many of them are ‘product of Canada’, regardless of any subtle labeling. But you probably knew that!

    • bar_foo says:

      Canada has VERY strict laws about maple labeling. Syrups can’t be label(l)ed “maple” as easily as they can in the US.
      http://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/regulations/C.R.C.,_c._289/page-2.html#h-4

  16. CarlR says:

    My wife and I were eating breakfast at a B&B a few years ago, and she decides to get cute and ask “is this real VERMONT maple syrup?”

    To which the owner replied “actually, it’s from Maine … and you’re in New Hampshire”

    OOPS!

    • eezy-peezy says:

      Even most of the Vermont syrup is made from sap trucked in from Quebec.

      • guspaz says:

        Why? That would raise your shipping costs by a ridiculous margin (something like 40x, since that’s the reduction ratio for sap to syrup)…

  17. There's room to move as a fry cook says:

    Fake maple syrup & fake olive oil are big business. Consumers get fooled by pretty labels.

  18. teqjack says:

    This is like selling lard as butter.

  19. Rifter says:

    Felony… for mislabeling a product. At worst, you get what, not even fat… since they are both fattening. I understand going after people, but not at the felony level.

    • Vermont2US says:

      It should be a felony – food absolutely MUST have an accurate listing of ingredients for food safety reasons. At worst, you die.

  20. lovemypets00 - You'll need to forgive me, my social filter has cracked. says:

    I support this. As a consumer, when I spend money on a product, I want the product to be what the label says it is, and what I’m paying for. If I’m going to shell out my hard earned money on an expensive treat like real maple syrup, it had better be real maple syrup.

  21. RedShirt says:

    But wait, I thought all sugar was the same… according to the corn syrup lobby it is… but I guess that deception is OK because that’s not the little guy.

  22. Vermont2US says:

    If you don’t want to spend $50/gallon I would recommend trying a (real) maple creemee or shake. Delicious and usually comparably-priced to regular ice cream.

  23. zibby says:

    Good. It seems like he could have stayed out of trouble by not selling fake syrup, which would be a pretty easy thing to do.

  24. maxamus2 says:

    Selling counterfeit goods is a crime, just as if it were purses, sunglasses, etc…

  25. momtimestwo says:

    Damn right… real maple syrup is liquid gold. I know, I grew up on a farm in Massachusetts. We had 5000 taps and made and sold our own maple syrup. Springs in the sap house… the memories.

  26. donovanr says:

    In Nova Scotia we have Traditional Acadian Maple Fudge with traditional ingredients like glucose-fructose, palm oil, artificial flavour, and I think as one of the last ingredients something involving maple. This product was on display right below 100% maple syrup from the same company. Made me doubt the entire company. The shame is that there is a similarly named company with great products.

  27. Emily says:

    A felony? Are the good senators on crack?

    I wonder if France does this to people who violate laws of wine and champagne.