Bamboo gets hot

Bamboo has been, for awhile now, a very hot fabric. Seemingly new, altogether different, and full of remarkable qualities. Turns out bamboo textiles are also hot in terms of being sought after by the FTC for being falsely labeled and a fabric commonly misrepresented to the consumer.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently charged four companies with deceptive labeling and advertising because the bamboo used in their textiles was actually rayon but not disclosed as such. (And getting on the FTC’s radar also landed 3 of the 4 companies with additional charges for violating other labeling/advertising regulations, including failure to note country of origin.)

The rulings are an effort at enforcement but also one of education. The Federal Trade Commission, in working to protect the consumer, wants the general public to know that

“the soft ‘bamboo’ fabrics on the market today are rayon. They are made using toxic chemicals in a process that releases pollutants into the air. Extracting bamboo fibers is expensive and time-consuming, and textiles made just from bamboo fiber don’t feel silky smooth. There is also no evidence that rayon made from bamboo retains the antimicrobial properties of the bamboo plant …”

(See the FTC’s recent consumer alert: Have You Been Bamboozled by Bamboo Fabrics?)

The Real Diaper Industry Association has been following these developments for over a year and working hard to educate its members on compliance with federal regulations. Member meetings in Las Vegas last year included a talk on greenwashing, labeling and the use of the term “organic.” This year there will be another session on regulations including CPSIA and more on labeling. (Non-members welcome at this year’s cloth diaper business meetings Sept 14-15 in Las Vegas. Register here.)

So what do you need to know to avoid being Bamboozled by labeling claims on what many thought to be a trendy and totally environmentally friendly fabric?

The Federal Trade Commission has been remarkably clear this time and have published a series of documents which are easy to read, informative and straight to the point.

“If you sell clothing, linens, or other textile products, you’re responsible for making truthful disclosures about the fiber content. If your product isn’t made directly of bamboo fiber – but is a manufactured fiber for which bamboo was the plant source – it should be labeled and advertised using a generic name for the fiber, such as rayon, or ‘rayon made from bamboo.'”

Consumers are urged to educate themselves and know what to look for, what to ask and how to shop for their green goodies with a clean conscience.

Manufactures need to keep themselves educated and seek to help their own customers understand the fabrics used in their products.

Retailers need to understand what they are selling and be clear with customers about products.

The RDIA website is one place to find information and news on cloth diaper industry related topics like fabric, labeling, and laundering. Members can also post questions or news bits to the forum and seek assistance from peers, committee members, and board members. We all have a great deal of information to share and together we can help make sure we are neither Bamboozled nor Bamboozling.