Syrup manufacturers battle counterfeit maple syrup

POSTED: Wednesday, October 12, 2011 - 11:34am

UPDATED: Wednesday, October 12, 2011 - 11:36am

Vermont's maple trees show off their gorgeous reds and yellows this time of year but in five months or so, they'll be producing gold: Maple syrup.

"It's got that flavor; that sweetness to it," said Glenn Vargas, a tourist from Los Angeles. "The other ones don't compare to this!"

Senator Patrick Leahy is promising new legislation to strengthen penalties against crooks who counterfeit Vermont's most famous product.

"I just want to make darn sure you don't have somebody trying to rip you off," said Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont.

Sound like a strange issue?

Leahy says a case coming this week to federal court is proof the laws need to get tougher.

Vermont prosecutors will charge a Rhode Island man with fraud alleging 49-year-old Bernard Coleman of West Warwick would whip up a liquid using mostly cheap cane sugar and sell it online passing off his bogus blend as Vermont maple.

"Imitation is the greatest form of flattery, right? Somebody's trying to imitate vermont maple syrup. Can't be done," said Vermont Agriculture Secretary Chuck Ross.

Sam Cutting's Dakin Farm is one of Vermont's biggest pure maple retailers.

He worries phony ingredients are more common than people think.

"It just sends shivers up our spines and a funny feeling in our stomachs. It's just so offensive," said Cutting.

Cutting wants consumers to know how much work goes into his product from harvesting sap in the snowy woods to boiling it down and packaging it.

Cutting says that care is why legit maple tastes so good and costs around $55 a gallon.

"It's worth it," said Cutting.

Leahy thinks the threat of more serious prison time will scare off maple counterfeiters.

Producers are glad for his help because it's not just their sales, but also, their reputations that suffer from knock-offs.

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