Kona State Representative Nicole Lowen and Hawaii County State Senator Russell Ruderman, at the urging of the Kona Coffee Farmers Association, have introduced companion bills in the Hawaii Legislature’s 2014 Session to reduce consumer fraud and deception caused by current state coffee labeling laws.

Rep. Lowen’s bill is HB1515 “Relating to Agriculture” and Sen. Ruderman’s bill is SB2354 “Relating to Coffee”.

Both bills cite a factual finding from a 2007 Concurrent Resolution of the Hawaii Legislature that “existing labeling requirements for Kona coffee causes consumer fraud and confusion and degrades the ‘Kona Coffee” name.”
SB2354 states that “amendments to the relevant statutes are therefore necessary to prevent consumer fraud and confusion” and that the purpose of the bill is to “conform state coffee labeling laws to principles of consumer disclosure and fair marketing by requiring express label disclosure of the per cent of coffee not grown in Hawaii that is included in coffee blends that contain Hawaii-grown coffee.”

Currently, Honolulu coffee blenders, for example, are only required to state in “10% Kona Coffee Blend” in small print on coffee blend packages. The Lowen and Ruderman bills will require blenders to expressly tell consumers that 90% of what is in the blend package is not grown in Hawaii –for example:  “Contains: 90% Panamanian Coffee; 10% Kona Coffee” or  “Contains: 90% Foreign-Grown Coffee; 10% Maui Coffee.”

“This is a very modest step in the direction of fair marketing and consumer disclosure,” observes Kona Coffee Farmers Association President Cecelia B. Smith.  “Visitors from the Mainland who don’t read beyond the large print (for example “Royal Kona” or “Hawaiian Gold Kona Coffee”) at the top of packages of 10% Kona blends will still be misled into buying what they wrongly believe to be Kona coffee. But for those buyers who carefully read the label, for the first time there will be an express indication that 90% of the contents is not from Kona or from any other region of Hawaii.”

Submitted by Kona Coffee Farmers Association

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