New Law In the Brief: Act 49 of 2011 Hawaii State Legislative Session

Act 49: Restricting the Use of the Geographic Origin of Hawaii-Grown Coffee on Coffee Labels

This week we are talking coffee because a) as an attorney I am also interested in how the government tries to regulate certain businesses in terms of compliance ad consumer education and b) I like anything related to food and drink because I run a food blog.

Business and Consumer Impact:  The purpose of Act 49 is to try and insure that producers of coffee blends include one or more Hawaii-coffees contains labeling that tells the consumer exactly what are the contents of the package and what is their geographic origin.  In the case of this law an example would be best to show the situation the Legislature is intending to deal with.

Let’s say you have a package of coffee that uses one or more Hawaii-grown coffee that has two labels, a primary one, and then a secondary one.   The secondary one states that the coffee is “Kona Vanilla Macadamia Nut.”  However, in actuality it only contains 10% Kona coffee blend.  With this Act now in effect as law it will be illegal to do so.

Coffee labels will need to be redone for a lot of packaging after Act 49.

Specifics:  The way the law works is by amending part of Hawaii law.  Specifically, Section 486-120.6, which handles the labeling requirements for Hawaii-grown roasted or instant coffee.  In general, Chapter 486 concerns Measurement Standards for many other types of products and what kind of identification is necessary for them.  Things such as “island fresh” milk, macadamia nuts, and acacia koa wood all have certain necessary requirements to represent their origin and content.

One hundred per cent of the roasted or instant coffee contained in the package is from the geographic origin

In the case of these new amendments to the coffee labeling requirements by adding four new types of violations (which are found in part (c) of the law).  They are as follows:

  1. Use a geographic origin on the front label panel of a package of roasted or instant coffee other than in the trademark or in the identity statement as authorized in subsection (a)(1) and (2) unless one hundred per cent of the roasted or instant coffee contained in the package is from that geographic origin;
  2. Use more than one trademark on a package of roasted or instant coffee unless one hundred per cent of the roasted or instant coffee contained in the package is from that geographic origin specified by the trademark;
  3. Use a trademark that begins with the name of a geographic origin on a package of roasted or instant coffee unless one hundred percent of the roasted or instant coffee contained in the package comes from that geographic origin or the trademark ends with words that indicate a business entity; or
  4. Print the identity statement required by subsection (a) in a smaller font than that used for a trademark that includes the name of a geographic origin pursuant to paragraph (7) and in a location other than the front label panel of a package of roasted or instant coffee.”

The main part to take away from the first three amendments is the “one hundred per cent of the roasted or instant coffee contained in the package is from the geographic origin.”  Why?  The ultimate goal and intent by the Legislature is to the end the confusion that consumers are purchasing 100% origin product (i.e. “Kona coffee” is ALL from Kona) rather than a blend (which in some cases is only 10% from Kona).  The method, in which they do this, in the case here, is by limiting the use of point of origin coffee names on the package.

Violation:  If any person or company is found violating any part of Chapter 486, including these new amendments to the coffee labeling requirement law, the State Department of Agriculture’s Measurement Standards Branch is charged with enforcement.  The law for Offenses and Penalties found under Chapter 486 is Section 32, which states $2,000 for each separate offense.

 

*Disclaimer:  This post discusses general legal issues, but does not constitute legal advice in any respect.   No reader should act or refrain from acting based on information contained herein without seeking the advice of counsel in the relevant jurisdiction.  Ryan K. Hew, Attorney At Law, LLLC expressly disclaims all liability in respect to any actions taken or not taken based on the contents of this post.

New Law in the Brief will be taking a brief hiatus next week as I will be rolling out a new series of Social Media and a Law.  This will be a multi-part series of posts detailing the interaction of various parts of the law, legal community, and the rise of social media platforms.  Hope you find them and tweet about them!

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s