(BIVN) – A new coffee labeling bill is making its way through the State Legislature.
House Bill 1757 HD1 passed the State House on third reading and is now in the hands of the State Senate. The bill proposes to expand the coffee labeling requirements to include ready-to-drink, or RTD, coffee beverages. The requirements are already in place for “roasted” and “instant” coffee.
The labels must list the geographic origins of the various Hawaii-grown coffees in beverage, as well as the per cent coffee by weight.
Kona coffee farmer Bruce Corker made the trip to Oahu to testify on a new coffee labeling bill making its way through the State House.
“Currently, a number of marketers of RTD coffee drinks are using Hawaii origin names on their products without disclosing what percentage – if any – of the coffee is from the region on the label.”
Corker brought some visual evidence to show the lawmakers; products purchased at Costco that use the Kona name on the packaging.
“The word Kona appears prominently,” Corker said as he held the can in his hand. “It says Made in Hawaii but it doesn’t indicate whether any of the coffee is from Kona-grown beans, could be zero percent. No indication whatsoever.”
“What we are asking is for the protection of consumers and for the protection of the economic interests of farmers,” said Corker, who was also representing the Kona Coffee Farmers Association. “This simple change be made to add to the current labeling requirements, to 1.) have a minimum of 10% origin coffee in the product and 2.) to indicate the percentage on the label.”
The Department of Agriculture, though supportive, stated that it cannot determine the origin of a coffee, or its blend, once it is roasted.
“The Department supports the Hawaii coffee industry and the use of unique geographic coffee growing regions to market, advertise and sell Hawaii-grown coffee,” the ag department wrote in its testimony. “However, while the Department can enforce grading and labeling of green Hawaiigrown coffee, the Department cannot determine the content or origin of a coffee or its blend once it is roasted.”
Corker refuted the ag department’s statement.
“If there is reason to believe that a marketer of roasted, or instant, or RTD coffee is misrepresenting the percentage of Hawaiian-grown coffee in a package,” Corker wrote, “there are scientific tests readily available to prove and prosecute violations of the law. See, for example, “Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy for Kona Coffee Authentication”, Journal of Food Science, Vol. 74; Nr. 5, at C385 (2009). H.C. Bittenbender of the UH Department of Tropical Plant and Soil Sciences is one of the authors of this article describing procedures for authentication.”
The next stop for the bill will be before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Consumer Protection, and Health.