FTC Cracking Down on Bamboo Claims

The Home Fashion Products Association as issued an alert about the Federal Trade Commission charging suppliers with deceptive labeling and advertising over the use of the word "bamboo."

The FTC has charged four sellers of clothing and other textiles products for claiming bamboo construction on products manufactured from rayon. The complaints also charge the companies with making false and unsubstantiated "green" claims that the products are manufactured using an environmentally friendly process, that they retain the natural antimicrobial properties of the bamboo plant, and that they are biodegradable.

"It is a violation of the FTC textile labeling rules to identify a fabric as simply 100% bamboo or 100% bamboo rayon. Bamboo is not a generic fiber," wrote Robert Leo of Meeks, Sheppard, Leo & Pillsbury, the association's counsel.

Rayon is the generic name for a fiber made from cellulose such as pine, spruce, hemlock or bamboo.

"Whatever the source of the cellulose, if it is used to make rayon, then the garment should be labeled as 100% rayon or 100% rayon from bamboo. Such garments should also not be marketed with terms such as 'Pure Bamboo,' 'Bamboo Comfort,' or 'Bamboo Baby' that were used in the cases that the FTC investigated," said Leo.

The FTC noted that when bamboo is used as the cellulose source, the resulting rayon does not retain any natural antimicrobial properties of the bamboo plant. The manufacturing process, which involves dissolving the bamboo in harsh and toxic chemicals, eliminates any such natural properties of the bamboo plant and results in the emission of hazardous air pollutants, according to the FTC. Further, rayon products are not biodegradable, and will not break down and return to the elements found in nature in a reasonably short period of time after disposal, the FTC has found.

The FTC has a new publication designed to help businesses selling clothing and textiles products labeled as bamboo to market their products in ways that are truthful, non-deceptive, and in compliance with the law. "Avoid Bamboozling Your Customers" can be found at http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/business/alerts/alt172.shtm.

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