Maple SyrupWhen you think about maple syrup, the first things that spring to mind are words like breakfast and pancakes and delicious ... What I don't think about are things like cartels, multimillion-dollar crime rings, and elaborate schemes to nab thousands of gallons of maple syrup from Canada's strategic maple-syrup reserves.

Yes, all of these things are real, and they totally happened. But fear not! Police have arrested three men in conjunction with the theft of more than $18 million worth of maple syrup. What the heck would anyone do with that much contraband maple syrup? And how would you even steal such a thing?

The world of maple syrup is kind of like OPEC, and most of the global supply is controlled by what amounts to a Canadian syrup cartel. They keep a serious stockpile -- currently holding 46 million pounds of it -- and use that to control the price and the supply.

That 46 million pounds of syrup are stored in warehouses, in giant 54-gallon drums. And that's how the thieves got the goods. They rented space in one of the warehouses and then syphoned off syrup, even refilling some barrels with water to mask their crimes.

Who would have thought maple syrup was such a hot commodity? Haha. Not me! I mean, I like the stuff, don't get me wrong. It's downright perfect on a chilly morning, smothering buttery French toast. (I'm not a pancake girl ...) But up in Canada, syrup is big business and the police spared no expense in trying to unravel the mystery. They questioned over 300 people and executed 40 search warrants.

The stolen food was sold to suppliers in Ottawa, Vermont, and New Hampshire, so if you've gotten some real maple syrup in any of those areas lately, you could be scarfing down contraband goods! But you'll never know. "Maple syrup doesn't have a bar code," a lieutenant told The New York Times. "There’s no way to tell it apart." 

Would you ever have guessed maple syrup was such a hot commodity?


Image via Ano Lobb. @healthyrx/Flickr