By  on October 23, 2009

WASHINGTON — The Federal Trade Commission reached a settlement on Thursday with a company that manufactures bamboo clothing and bath products over charges the firm made false environmental claims and mislabeled its merchandise.

According to the FTC, The M Group Inc., operating as Bamboosa, agreed to refrain from making future claims its products were bamboo, unless they were backed by evidence. The company also agreed not to say its products are made from bamboo fiber when they are actually made of rayon derived from bamboo.

Morris Saintsing, owner of Bamboosa, said the company had resisted signing a consent agreement with the FTC because it disagrees with the commission’s allegations, but could not see another way forward. Bamboosa had already changed the labels on its products to specify they were made from viscose derived from bamboo prior to the FTC action and is in the process of determining how to revamp its marketing to reflect the settlement agreement, Saintsing said.

In September, the FTC moved to crack down on unsubstantiated “green” claims. In charging four companies with making false claims about the eco-friendly aspects of their products, the FTC called into question the use of bamboo as a green textile alternative. At issue was whether products derived from bamboo could accurately be labeled as “bamboo,” which has been touted as an environmentally friendly alternative to traditional raw materials for apparel, among other products.

The FTC contended in its initial complaint against the companies that textiles made from bamboo must undergo substantive chemical alterations and processes, some of which release pollutants, to be made into soft textiles. The resulting products, usually rayon, are therefore man-made fibers and must be labeled as such, the regulatory body said. In addition, the FTC said the process strips the fabric produced of many of the characteristics associated with bamboo plants, such as antimicrobial properties.

The filings were the first FTC action regarding bamboo textiles, but Canada’s Competition Bureau took similar steps to increase monitoring and regulation of bamboo fabrics earlier this year.

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