NEW YORK ( MainStreet) -- Pancake enthusiasts know there's a big difference between real maple syrup and the Aunt Jemima stuff, which tends to be mainly corn syrup with flavoring. Now a couple of politicians want to make it a felony to brand the latter as the real thing.
A Vermont senator wants to make it illegal to brand cheap knockoff syrup as "maple."
Sens. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) put aside their partisan differences to find something they agree on: Maple syrup is serious business. The senators represent states that produce large quantities of the stuff, so they've proposed a bill to make fraudulently labeling a bottle as maple syrup a felony punishable by up to five years in prison. The bill will be known as the Maple Agriculture Protection and Law Enforcement Act -- the MAPLE Act, of course. While sending someone to federal prison for labeling a bottle of syrup incorrectly seems a bit harsh, we can see where the senators are coming from. Their states' economies partly depend on production of maple syrup, so there's real economic damage at stake if just anybody can slap a "maple syrup" label on something that doesn't truly come from a maple tree. And there seems to be a larger movement afoot to crack down on shady labeling practices. The Federal Trade Commission announced guidelines last year urging companies to stop marketing their products as "environmentally friendly," a practice widely known as "greenwashing." And the U.S. Department of Agriculture has taken steps to ensure that food certified as organic actually is. It's not simply a matter of protecting the maple syrup industry and preserving the value of the brand. It's also a matter of making sure consumers are told the truth about what they're buying. "Fake labeling not only hurts this growing agricultural industry, but also defrauds consumers who have the right to know exactly what they are purchasing," Collins said in a press release announcing the bill. >To submit a news tip, email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow TheStreet.com on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook.