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Hawaiian Legislators Introduce Bills for Stricter Coffee Labeling

Kona coffee

Coffee Plantation in Kona” by LaurenBacon is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Legislators representing the Kona district of Hawaii have introduced a series of bills that would require more strict labeling requirements for single-origin coffees and blends containing Hawaiian-grown coffees.

Some Kona coffee farmers and legislators have been pushing for stricter labeling requirements for more than a decade, as they seek to protect the Kona name and capitalize on its global reputation.

Yet this new legislative may find deeper footing given the recent high-profile Kona labeling lawsuit — which resulted in more than $33 million in penalties among more than 20 grocery and roasting companies.

Additionally, it follows a just-released report from the Hawaii Department of Agriculture stating that upping the percentage of Kona coffee required to call a coffee product a Kona blend is not likely to adversely affect the state’s coffee farmers (DCN will have more on this report soon).

Currently, state laws allow coffee blends to be named, packaged and sold as a “Kona,” or any other Hawaiian regional designation, if they contain just 10% of coffee from that region.

roasted coffee

The new law includes a timeline over the next four years for blends to include an increasing amount of coffee from the designated origin, from 25% up to 100%. It also stipulates that coffee blends of multiple Hawaiian origins must clearly identify and include the percentage from each. Similarly under the proposed law, packaged blends of Hawaiian coffees mixed with coffees from other countries of origin would be required to include percentages and Hawaiian regions of origin.

In addition to companion state house and senate bills that would revise Hawaiian labeling standards, legislators have put forth companion bills outlining enforcement, and calling for a $10,000 fine for each violation of the proposed laws.

The current legislative session in Hawaii runs through May 3.

Click these links for the full text of the new laws:

Relating to consumer protection: HB2298 /SB2481

Relating to agriculture and enforcement: HB2613/SB2103