By  on August 12, 2009

WASHINGTON — The Federal Trade Commission has charged four companies with selling clothing and textiles deceptively labeled as bamboo that were actually rayon and with making false environmental claims on their products.

The FTC also indicated that the advent of bamboo as a “green” alternative natural fiber in recent years could be called into question.

The FTC said Tuesday that it filed cases against Pure Bamboo LLC; Sami Designs LLC, which operates as Jonano; CSE Inc., doing business as Mad Mod, and the M Group, operating as Bamboosa. Three of the companies settled the charges and agreed to fix the problems. Litigation against the M Group is pending.

According to the FTC, the companies made unsubstantiated “green” claims and did not accurately represent the fiber content of their products when they were labeled as “100 percent bamboo fiber.”

The FTC said to manufacture soft textiles out of bamboo, the raw material usually goes through chemical processes that turn it into rayon, a man-made fiber, and strip it of natural antimicrobial properties and biodegradability. In addition, the process requires toxic chemicals that release pollutants into the air, the FTC said.

“Companies and buyers should be aware that clothing and textiles labeled as bamboo are likely rayon made from bamboo and should be labeled as such,” said Korin Ewing, a staff attorney with the FTC. “From what we’ve seen, this is a fairly widespread problem.”

A spokesman for Bamboosa said the FTC complaint is “splitting hairs on the language,” but acknowledged that some of the claims it makes about the environmental sensitivity and properties of its bamboo products are accurate.

The filings marked the first FTC action regarding bamboo textiles, but Canada’s Competition Bureau said in March it will step up monitoring and regulation of fabrics labeled “bamboo” beginning Sept. 1. The majority of bamboo fiber and fabric is sourced from China.

The Organic Trade Association, a membership-based business group for the organic industry in North America, did not return calls seeking comment about the impact of the FTC ruling.

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