OTTAWA - Falsely labelled maple syrup could be banned from the shelves of Canada's grocery stores if a Conservative senator gets her way.
B.C.'s Nancy Greene Raine admits she's not a natural ally for the Canadian maple syrup industry, but she's an enthusiastic champion. "I'm not from a maple producing area and so my maple syrup credentials are very much of the eating side," she joked in an interview with The Huffington Post Tuesday.
Raine pours maple syrup over cereals in the morning, on top of ice cream for a "nice simple desert," and sometimes uses it to sweeten muffins.
"I'm also interested in the fact that it is such a healthy sweetener," she said.
Thursday, she'll take the floor of the Senate to explain her motion to standardize maple product regulations to bring syrup grading and labelling in line with recommendations from the International Maple Syrup Institute.
"What they are going after (is) they want to make it much more difficult to pass off non-maple syrup as maple syrup," she said.
All pure maple syrup would be labelled "Grade A Maple Syrup" with four different classes established to give mostly Canadian and American consumers, who have vastly different labelling for similar grades, a clearer sense of what they're buying. Grade B maple syrup wouldn't be eliminated but simply reclassified as a Grade A dark syrup, she said.
"Products found to be below 'Grade A Maple Syrup' would be removed from retail shelves, strengthening consumer confidence in the purity of the maple syrup they purchase," Raine said in press release announcing her motion.
That doesn't mean that fake maple syrup would be off the shelves, Raine and the Maple Syrup Institute's David Chapeskie acknowledged.
"No, no you can't stop that, but obviously you can stop it from being called pure maple syrup. If it's not 100 per cent pure maple syrup, it can't be called pure maple syrup," Raine said.
Chapeskie said new regulations would simply target those who seek to take "advantage of this unique and natural product" by selling an "adulterated" version.
Raine doesn't go as far as some of her colleagues south of the border. Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy and Maine Senator Susan Collins have suggested stiff criminal penalties for those caught selling fake maple syrup.
In October, the senators introduced the MAPLE Act which makes fraudulently selling a product purported to be maple syrup a felony offense carrying a five-year maximum penalty.
"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," Leahy said when introducing the bill.
In Canada, the value of maple products, including maple syrup, sugar and butter, was up 20 per cent in 2011 to $349.5 million, Statistics Canada reported last year.
Quebec producers account for 90 per cent of maple syrup production in Canada and two-thirds of world supply.
Raine said her motion, which she discussed with Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz, is about comparing "apples and apples" so consumers know what they are getting.
"I've just bought a certain brand and it's always been Canada Number 1 Medium but now I'm going to look for Grade A Golden with delicate taste, as it will be called," she said.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story contained a photo of Aunt Jemima's syrup and a reference to that brand as an inauthentic maple syrup. Aunt Jemima's has not, and does not, claim to be maple syrup.
You can see the Maple Syrup Institute's suggested labelling guidelines below.
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