The FTC recently accused four companies of making false and/or misleading claims about their bamboo textile products, possibly including bamboo sheets or bamboo clothing. There were three main *violations*, according to the FTC. Here are the FTC’s supposed *truths*:
A. “Textile fiber products are not bamboo fiber, but instead are rayon, a regenerated cellulose fiber.”
B. “Textile fiber products do not retain anti-microbial properties of the bamboo plant.”
C. “Textile fiber products will not completely break down and return to nature, i.e., decompose into elements found in nature, within a reasonably short period of time after customary disposal because a substantial majority of total household waste is disposed of by methods that do not present conditions that would allow for Respondents’ textile fiber products to completely break down and return to nature, i.e., decompose into elements found in nature, within a reasonably short period of time.”
Let’s start with the first allegation: Bamboo cannot be a fiber. If bamboo is used to make a fiber, then it must be called viscose/rayon from bamboo.
Does this mean the FTC’s next target will be Entegrion from Research Triangle Park in North Carolina, whom the U.S. Navy just awarded a $4 million dollar contract for the development of critical blood products 2 weeks ago, making it the fourth major contract over the last six years? Entegrion’s success story with their Stasilon dressing (bandage) was initially created for the military in consultation with the U.S. Office of Naval Research, and has recently been approved by the FDA for consumer sales. This remarkable bandage is made from a combination of glass and bamboo fibers….yes, you heard that correctly…bamboo fibers…oops, were we suppose to say “rayon from bamboo”? Watch the Entegrion video and see for yourself the verbiage used by Dr. Peter Johnson, Medical Consultant for Entegrion. Or, you can read about the famous stasilon hemostatic bandage, how it works and what it’s made of.
The bottom line is that the FTC would have you believe very deceptive claims they have made by taking a shred of truth with no scientific evidence, then creating a consumer alert filled with their own “false marketing claims” when they are suppose to be protecting consumers from this very scam. They have taken the bamboo industry and smeared it across the internet with false allegations, just as they have done in past cases.
A perfect example of “stretching the truth” would be in regards to literally stating to consumers, and I quote the FTC, “But when it comes to soft bamboo textiles, like shirts or sheets, there’s a catch: they’re actually rayon.” Are they crazy? Did they define what rayon really is, or did they lead you to believe you have been completely duped?! Let us be the first to show you scientific proof that “bamboo rayon” and “traditional rayon” are a far cry from one another when it comes to their quality and characteristics.
The US system for characterizing fibers dates back almost a century and changes slowly so new fibers like Bamboo, take years and millions before a new classification is created. Until that happens, the fibers are grouped into the next closest thing, which for Bamboo happens to be viscose. Others products grouped into this category include fibers made from Soy, Corn, and Milk. Bamboo should have it’s own classification at some point, but until then it will be classified as man made and called viscose or rayon just like Modal, Cupro, Tencel, – all made with the viscose process.
The reality is that there is no past precedence set for the proper characterization of bamboo fabric. This is not uncommon with new products…be it a textile or otherwise. The FTC has independently decided that bamboo fabrics or fibers, cannot be referred to as “bamboo fiber” or “100% bamboo.” Instead, they have concluded that it has to be described as “viscose from bamboo” or “rayon from bamboo.” These are very recent developments, lest you think that this was some government issued criteria that was put in place years ago, it was not.
In any case…the significant factor here is that this FTC doctrine is a recent event. Prior to this, the U.S. Customs Department was allowing bamboo fiber to come into the country as just that…bamboo fiber. The FTC would have you believe that these companies engaged in malicious, deliberate and misleading descriptions of their products.
Nothing could be further from the truth. As an example…we decided just a few months ago, to put “viscose from bamboo” in our product descriptions. Did we do this because the FTC told us it was the only acceptable way to describe our products? No, we did it because we discovered in our research, that this was likely going to be a future requirement.
In the interest of full disclosure…I am not an employee of, and/or do not represent any of the four companies involved, but we do have a business relationship with one of them. I do not know all four owners, but I do know two of them, and I can attest to the fact that they would never intentionally put out false or misleading information about their products. They are not that type of businesspersons, and just aren’t that type of people…period.
The second allegation states that: *Fibers from bamboo* do not have any anti-microbial properties.
Lest you think that because your government says so, it must be true, this would be naïve. There have been a handful of antimicrobial tests done that would say otherwise in Japan, China and the U.S. Another antimicrobial test was done on bamboo socks with fascinating results. The FTC was presented with such independent test data, and they refused to accept it or acknowledge it. Well, apparently they did look at one or more, and deemed them inconclusive. Not long after that…they began their current campaign which refutes any anti-microbial properties, while providing no test data of their own as evidence to back up their theory.
This is the FTC’s exact claim from their consumer alert…“There’s also no evidence that rayon made from bamboo retains the antimicrobial properties of the bamboo plant, as some sellers and manufacturers claim. Even when bamboo is the “plant source” used to create rayon, no traits of the original plant are left in the finished product.”
Karen Biers, a clothing and textiles specialist at the Utah State University provides information and an actual bamboo fabric case study to the contrary.
Remember Entegrion, the company contracted by the U.S. Navy who produced the Stasilon Wound Dressing consisting of Bamboo Fibers? Jeffrey Freeman, Vice President of Operations at Carolina Narrow Fabric Co., works directly with Entegrion in producing this product. Freeman stated, “The surface area of the fabric is primarily glass fiber, which does not absorb the blood but does help it to clot, and the bamboo weft yarn wicks the blood to the glass surface. He also pointed out bamboo’s antimicrobial properties as being important, but not as important as the clotting factor provided by the glass fiber.” You can view the full article at Textile World.
Want to do your own informal test? Wear your favorite cotton shirt for a week straight, and/or a pair of cotton socks for several days, and take note of any odiferous characteristics those items have afterward. Next, do the same test using bamboo socks and/or a bamboo t-shirt. I guarantee you that you will find a very noticeable difference between the two fabrics. This obviously does not provide us with scientific data, but until I have some actual test data in hand to publish for you, this is just one suggestion that may help you to draw your own conclusions, should you feel so inclined.
The third allegation deals with biodegradability. It states that: Textile fiber products will not completely break down and return to nature, i.e., decompose into elements found in nature, within a reasonably short period of time.
Ok, take a bamboo shirt and bury it in your backyard…just kidding. Seriously, though, in reading through the FTC’s actual complaints…I gleaned from it that if your bamboo textile goes to the landfill with the rest of your garbage…it won’t meet the criteria set forth for the definition of biodegradability. However, if it were put in a compost, it might meet the definition. Is everything that is advertised as biodegradable in line with this definition? I honestly don’t know. I do know, from a reliable source, that testing has shown that *fiber from bamboo* will–and does–meet the definition of biodegradability. Again, the FTC for some reason, is not interested in considering independent testing that contradicts their allegations.
The very definition of biodegradable is a process that stipulates no exact time frame…you can look this up for yourself. The problem is not in that businesses are misrepresenting their biodegradable products. The problem is that our government has yet to come up with a solution to solve our overabundance of trash that keeps being pumped into landfills…a place that can literally host a head of lettuce for 5 years and a hot dog for 15 years…as proven by Dr. William Rathje, who wrote the book “Rubbish”, and pioneered excavations on over 15 landfills throughout North America. In fact, most countries have regulations in place that do not even allow biodegradable materials to go into landfills. This begs the question, “are the business owners responsible for trying to produce eco-friendly and biodegradable products to help in this environmental fight for a greener earth…but are not allowed to claim their products are biodegradable…or is it time our government come up with a solution so that the very definition of biodegradable doesn’t become extinct?”
Perhaps you are familiar with the June, 2009 case of FTC against Kmart for marketing three different products that claim to be biodegradable? Once again, two of the three companies consented and settled with the FTC, probably because they did not want to go to battle in fear for their reputations being destroyed and publicized by the FTC. However, the third company, Dyna-E International decided to stand their ground and prove their Lightload brand of towels are in fact biodegradable. You can view their Lab Results (pdf download) and see for yourself that they are not only biodegradable in a “short time period” but also bring strong reference to “rayon” as being scientifically proven to have a short decomposition time. We are still awaiting the final verdict from the FTC on Dyna-E’s burden of proof.
I am not a conspiracy theorist–by any means. That said, though, when I see my government refusing to look at independent data that backs up facts contradicting their position, it gives me pause, and forces me to ask why?
There are certainly some big players in the textile industry that would not–and do not–want bamboo to continue to grow in popularity the way that it has over the last few years. Without regard to the “eco-friendly” issue, bamboo fabric is hugely superior to cotton, and anyone that owns bamboo clothing or bedding, will attest to this.
Here is an interesting quote: “The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) acted wantonly, oppressively, vexatiously and in bad faith in prosecuting claims against Mark O. Haroldsen.” That is some pretty harsh language.
The 2003 Haroldsen case was ruled on by the United States District Court for Utah. The interesting fact is, that most small businesses can not afford to take on the FTC, and their only alternative is to comply with whatever the totalitarian-like organization stipulates the business must change about their product descriptions.
The compliance order is typically followed up with a gag order, preventing the company from even being able to defend itself. In this case, though, the judge found that the FTC was grossly inept when it came to providing any evidence at all to support their claims.
Because of the FTC’s ineptness, the judge ordered them to pay $190,000 in attorney fees. Unfortunately, the judge’s award was grossly inadequate when it came to covering all of Haroldsen’s trial expenses and his lost income due to the damage the FTC did to his business reputation.
Here is another quote: “It is in the public interest to dispose of this matter expeditiously.” This statement was accompanied by a three-inch thick consent agreement, and the FTC required that the company keep the FTC fully informed of all their business activities for the next 20 years. Additionally, the FTC demanded that the company hand over its entire customer database.
These are just some of the initial demands put forth by the FTC, in the hopes that the company would not fight it, no doubt. The company…SOTA, chronicled their experience with the FTC. Incidentally, after about 18 months of defending themselves… SOTA emerged victorious.
As a side note: The FTC has dedicated a lot of time and resources to their bamboo witch hunt, which is full of ambiguity, semantics, and an unwillingness to even look at the facts. All the while…there are thousands of websites in many different genres, that are duping U.S. citizens.
One website genre that comes to mind are sites that promise that “working from home” will give you financial freedom and/or you’ll become wealthy. Hell, I talked to someone a few weeks ago that thought they had gotten a job with Google.
The site that they signed up with, and sent money too, had made themselves appear to be a division of Google. I know, it sounds ridiculous, but some of these sites employ expert marketers and copywriters…and often dupe people of average intelligence, that just aren’t that internet savvy. It actually took me about 10 minutes to convince this person that it was just a scam.
In the bamboo case, we feel the FTC has done a grave injustice to the bamboo textile industry by presenting claims to the public without providing any evidence to back up their “theories.” They’re also stomping on the little guys who cannot afford to stand up for themselves in a court of law. And, while unemployed American citizens are looking to the internet for ways to earn income–and are being robbed of what little money they have–the FTC is busy making unsubstantiated claims against honest business owners who are providing jobs for American people.
But don’t take our word for it, see what judges have to say on previous FTC cases where the FTC took it just a little too far in tarnishing reputations and making false allegations.
LA Talk Radio speaks out about the FTC’s ulterior motives on “Green & Easy Living” with Rhonda, joined by Bryan Harris of Bamboo Provisions – Kane`ohe. This is about an hour segment but so worth listening to.
More posts and information coming soon, so stay tuned…tweet about it…spread the word…and by all means, leave a comment.
Sami Designs Wrongly Accused by FTC
FTC Claims Fruits and Vegetables Are Not Biodegradable
Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Discredits Itself – includes an in depth list of previous cases the FTC lost by court order due to gross negligence
FTC Claims Bamboo and Rayon Are One in The Same
FTC’s Bamboo Smear Campaign Riddled with Deception – includes a full response to the FTC’s claims from Mo at the M Group (Bamboosa)
Study of Antimicrobial Behavior of Socks from Bamboo Fibers