Maker of Rayon Clothes Barred from Deceptive "Bamboo" Claims

Just because bamboo is green does not mean that companies who purport to make clothing and other textiles from processed bamboo can make unsupported “green” claims. The Federal Trade Commission today announced a settlement with a company that allegedly falsely claimed its rayon products are made of bamboo fiber, retain bamboo’s antimicrobial properties, and are biodegradable.

Under the settlement, the company has agreed that it will not make any future bamboo claims unless they are true and backed by reliable evidence, and that it will no longer claim that the clothing and bath products it sells are made of bamboo fiber – when they actually are made of rayon processed from bamboo plants.

According to the Commission’s complaint, issued in August 2009, The M Group, Inc., d/b/a Bamboosa, and its principals falsely claimed that the company’s products are “100% bamboo fiber,” when they are composed of rayon. Rayon is a man-made fiber created from the cellulose found in plants and trees and dissolved with a harsh chemical that releases hazardous air pollution. Any plant or tree could be used as the cellulose source – including bamboo – but the fiber that is created is rayon.

The complaint also charged Bamboosa with making a number of other deceptive “green” claims. Bamboosa claimed that its products retain bamboo’s antimicrobial properties. However, even if the rayon used in Bamboosa’s clothing and textile products is manufactured using bamboo as the cellulose source, the FTC contends, rayon does not retain any natural antimicrobial properties of the bamboo plant. The rayon manufacturing process eliminates any of these natural bamboo properties.

Bamboosa also allegedly made unqualified claims that its products are biodegradable. The Commission charged that the company’s rayon products are not biodegradable because they will not break down in a reasonably short time after customary disposal. Most clothing and textiles are disposed of either by recycling or in a landfill, where such biodegradation does not occur.

Finally, the complaint charged Bamboosa with violating the Textile Fiber Products Identification Act (Textile Act) and the FTC’s Textile Rules by falsely labeling and advertising its clothing and textile products as bamboo, when they should be labeled and advertised as rayon.

The proposed settlement bars Bamboosa from making any false, misleading, or unsubstantiated claims that any textile product is made of bamboo or bamboo fiber, is antimicrobial or retains the antimicrobial properties of the product from which it is made, or is biodegradable. The settlement also bars Bamboosa from making any claims about the benefits, performance, or efficacy of any clothing or textile product it sells, unless the claims are true, not misleading, and substantiated by reliable evidence. The proposed order also requires Bamboosa to comply with the Textile Act and FTC’s Textile Rules.

Three other companies – Sami Designs, LLC, doing business as (d/b/a) Jonäno; CSE, Inc., d/b/a Mad Mod; and Pure Bamboo, LLC – settled similar FTC complaints in August 2009, agreeing to stop making the false claims and to abide by the Textile Act and the FTC’s Textile Rules.

The Commission vote approving the proposed consent order was 4-0. The order will be subject to public comment for 30 days, until November 23, 2009, after which the Commission will decide whether to make it final. Written comments should be sent to: FTC, Office of the Secretary, 600 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W., Washington, DC 20580. To file a comment electronically, please click on the following hyperlink: http://www.ftc.gov/os/2009/08/bamboopubliccomment.pdf and follow the instructions.

NOTE: A consent order is for settlement purposes only and does not constitute an admission of a violation of the law. When the Commission issues an order on a final basis, it carries the force of law with respect to future actions. Each violation of such an order may result in a civil penalty of up to $16,000.

Comments

  1. Hi, this Mo from Bamboosa. I'd like to make a comment on this FTC thing if I may.

    First, I want to say that the only reason that Bamboosa has decided to sign the consent order, after nearly a year of dealing with this, is that we feel we cannot fight the FTC. We are a small company with limited resources and we need to direct those resources where they will do the most good for our employees and our customers.

    Bamboosa stands by our products as one of the best choices you can make for textiles or apparel. Our products, when taken as a whole, have a reduced environmental footprint when compared to most textile or apparel choices.

    The FTC is incorrect in their assumption regarding the environmental impact of the fiber production and about any hazards to the workers. The FTC is looking at data from the standard production methods for rayon, not the production methods developed in the last several years for turning bamboo into a fiber.

    They are also incorrect when they say that all fiber classified as rayon or viscose has the same attributes regardless of the cellulose source. Our tests have proven that there are significant differences between viscose from bamboo and viscose from a tree.

    Regarding antimicrobial properties, the tests that we provided them with that show bamboo fabric inhibits the growth of bacteria may not have satisfied their requirements, but anyone who has ever worn a bamboo shirt or socks and sweated in them knows that the resistance to odor is there.

    I would also like to say that any implication by the FTC that Bamboosa has engaged in any sort of 'greenwashing' is absolutely without merit. Our suppliers that sell us the fiber call it 'bamboo fiber'. Our yarn spinner that sell us yarn says it is 'bamboo yarn'. Bamboosa simply used the same terminology as we were getting from our suppliers. It is also worth noting that Bamboosa changed all of our labeling to read 'viscose from bamboo' prior to any FTC action. We made that change as soon as we were aware of the need for it.

    Lastly, Bamboosa is a little company in a little town in SC. We started this company to try to bring some textile jobs back to Andrews. We are extremely proud of the products that we make and will put the environmental footprint of our products up against any apparel products on the market. While our fiber may come from China, the rest of our manufacturing, from yarn spinning to knitting, dyeing, sewing, and printing is done within a very small radius in SC.

    The real story here should be why the FTC is trying to squash a small little company that is creating American jobs and who produces a product that, in reality, lives up to every claim that is made about it.

    Thanks,

    Mo

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  2. If anyone wants to review the facts and scientific evidence recently discovered that discounts the FTC's allegations, there are several posts on this at Green Earth News blog site. The most recent post, FTC's Bamboo Smear Campaign Riddled with Deception is the best yet! There is powerful evidence here as well as prior FTC cases that totally discredit the FTC.

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