TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senator Donald Norcross (D-Camden/Gloucester) to strengthen state penalties associated with the false labeling and identification of products as ‘Jersey Fresh’ was approved today by the Senate and Assembly, sending it to the desk of the governor.
“Every year, the state receives complaints that produce shipped into New Jersey is mislabeled and sold to consumers as ‘Jersey Fresh’ products,” said Senator Norcross. “This deceptive labeling practice harms our state’s farmers, who are working hard to provide residents with locally-grown foods whose quality and freshness they have grown to depend on.”
The bill (S-3184) would double the penalties for the misuse of the outline of the State on packaging of farm products and any other violations of the law regulating the labeling and identification of farm products and Department of Agriculture designated brands, such as “Jersey Fresh.” Under current law, the penalty for initial violations is $50, and the penalty for subsequent violations is $100. The bill would increase those penalties to $100 and $200, respectively. In addition, the legislation would clarify that each improperly labeled package would constitute a separate violation.
“’Jersey Fresh’ products are in high demand because consumers trust their local growers and expect that the state label means they are getting a quality product,” said Senator Norcross. “The fraudulent use of this branding is an insult to consumers, as well our farmers who strive to produce high-quality fruits and vegetables that meet specific state standards imposed under the program.”
The Division of Consumer Affairs’ Consumer Protection Program is charged with investigating suspected violations of the law. In 2010, the Department of Agriculture partnered with the Division of Consumer Affairs to develop a standardized reporting form the Department’s inspectors can use when encountering mislabeling. The creation of the standardized form was intended to reduce the amount of time that the Division must spend investigating reports of mislabeling.
The Senate approved the bill by a vote of 39-0. The Assembly approved it by a vote of 74-0.