Categorized | Agriculture

Farmers support coffee origin disclosure bill

From Colehour Bondera, president of the Kona Coffee Farmers Association:

The Kona Coffee Farmers Association (KCFA) has drafted a “Coffee Origin Disclosure Bill” for consideration by the Hawaii State Legislature in its 2012 session.

Sen. Josh Green, of Kona, has committed to introduce and support enactment of the bill when the legislative session opens later this month.

The bill is designed to provide a modest (but important) step forward toward truth-in-labeling. For labels on packages containing, for example, 10% Kona coffee the measure would require disclosure of the origin of the 90% not grown in Kona.

As an illustration, labels would be required to include disclosures such as “Contains: 90% Panamanian Coffee, 10% Kona Coffee.”

Under current law such packages are only required to put “10% Kona Blend” in small print at the bottom of the label; there is no requirement to disclose the origin of the 90%, nor is there a requirement to explicitly indicate that there is, in fact, non-Kona grown coffee in the package.

When the original bill leading to the “10% blend” coffee labeling law was introduced by in 1991, there was a provision mandating disclosure of the origin of all coffee in a blend. However, pressure on the Legislature from the Honolulu coffee blenders resulted in changing this disclosure requirement from “mandatory” to “voluntary.”

In the more than 20 years since passage of the original law, none of the major Honolulu blenders has ever chosen to voluntarily disclosure of the origin of the imported coffee in their blends.

KCFA President Colehour Bondera said, “All too often, consumers see the word KONA in the brand name in large print at the top of the label and incorrectly assume they are buying ‘Kona Coffee’ when the package is 90% from somewhere else. Even careful consumers who take the time to fully read the labels are confused by the small print at the bottom of the label. Are all Kona coffees are ‘10% blends’? Or is this an indication of a special type of coffee roast? Or does it indicate moisture content? Or is it a blend from 10 different Kona estate farms?”

KCFA Legislative Committee Chair Bruce Corker said: “The Coffee Origin Disclosure Bill will inform consumers who read the details on the label as to where the coffee in the bag was grown. That type of disclosure will move Hawaii’s coffee labeling law closer to basic consumer protection and fair marketing principles.”

Bondera said, “Kona coffee farmers need the support of Hawaii to protect their crop and their livelihoods, and that these goals are best achieved through state-level protection from the consumer deception which is currently permitted. To achieve this goal, consumers (which we all are) and farmers need to communicate the importance of truth-in-labeling to our State Legislators.”

To review the KCFA Policy Statement on the 10% blend law, visit: www.konacoffeefarmers.org/10_P…

The Kona Coffee Farmers Association is a non-profit farmer organization dedicated to the protection of the heritage and reputation of Kona Coffee. In 2010 the KCFA was awarded the “Parmigiano Reggiano International Origin Award” at the International Slow Food Convention in Turin for its work in defending the Kona coffee name.

Full text of the bill:

A BILL FOR AN ACT RELATING TO COFFEE.

BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF HAWAII:

SECTION 1. The legislature finds that the marketers of coffee blends that include Hawaii-grown coffees almost never disclose the geographic origin of non-Hawaii-grown coffee in the package. This non-disclosure of the geographic origin of the vast majority (usually 90%) of the coffee in such coffee blends confuses and misleads consumers. Such confusion is particularly likely when the brand names used by the marketers of these coffee blends contain the words “Hawaii” or “Hawaiian” or a Hawaii place name. When, for example, words like “Hawaiian” or “Kona” or “Maui” are used in large type as part of brand names at the top of coffee labels on which there is no disclosure of the origin of the 90% non-Hawaii-grown coffee in a package, consumers are often confused and mislead into believing that they are buying a package of Hawaii-grown coffee. By way of further example, two sessions ago the legislature made an express factual finding that “existing labeling requirements for Kona coffee causes consumer fraud and confusion and degrades the “Kona coffee” name.” (S.C.R. No.102, 2007) In all material respects, the statuary provisions giving rise to that finding of consumer deception and fraud remain in place.

The purpose of this Act is to conform state coffee labeling law to principles of consumer protection and fair marketing and to provide consumers with express label disclosure of the origin of all coffee in coffee blends that include Hawaii-grown coffees.

SECTION 2. Section 486-120.6, Hawaii Revised Statutes, is amended by amending subsection (b) to read as follows:

(b) A listing of the geographic origins of the various Hawaii-grown coffees and the regional origins of the various coffees not grown in Hawaii that are included in a blend [may] shall be shown on the label. [If used,] This list shall consist of the term “Contains:”, followed by, in descending order of per cent by weight and separated by commas, the respective geographic origin or regional origin of the various coffees in the blend. [that the manufacturer chooses to list.] Each geographic origin or regional origin [may] shall be preceded by the per cent of coffee by weight represented by that geographic origin or regional origin, expressed as a number followed by the per cent sign. The type size used for this list shall [not exceed half] be equal to that of the identity statement. This list shall appear below the identity statement [if included] on the front panel of the label.

SECTION 3. Statutory material to be repealed is bracketed and italicized. New statutory material is underscored.

SECTION 4. This Act shall take effect on January 1, 2013.

INTRODUCED BY SENATOR GREEN

———

NOTE: In the class action lawsuit brought by a California consumer challenging Safeway’s deceptive labeling of its “Safeway Select Kona Blend” (Thurston v. Safeway, US District Court for the Northern District of California) the plaintiff is asking the court to determine that it is a violation of California consumer protection laws for Safeway to call coffee a “Kona Blend” unless at least 51% is Kona-grown coffee. Wouldn’t it be ironic if the Court rules that California consumer protection laws provide greater protection for Hawaii coffee growers than does Hawaii law?

— Find out more:
www.KonaCoffeeFarmers.org

One Response to “Farmers support coffee origin disclosure bill”

  1. ricky stubbs says:

    It seems to me that the requirements of this bill are unreasonable. The bill’s opponents have a valid point that it is common practice to modify a blend frequently therefore they would have to change their labeling every time they change the blend.

    If the coffee growers want to protect their product integrity they should work together with the blenders to come up with a reasonable bill which every can agree on before presenting it to the senate.

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