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Retailers Fined For Label Violations

Four retailers have agreed to pay $1.3 million combined to settle charges over the mislabeling of bamboo products, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced this week. Bed Bath & Beyond, Nordstrom, J.C. Penney and Backcountry.com had all received warning letters, along with dozens of other retailers, from the FTC in 2010 that warned of labeling rayon products as bamboo.

“It’s misleading to call bamboo that has been chemically processed into rayon simply ‘bamboo,’” said Jessica Rich, director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection. “With consumers in the midst of their holiday shopping, it’s important for them to know that textiles marketed as environmentally friendly alternatives may not be as ‘green’ as they were led to believe.”

The retailers sold a variety of products with bamboo labels, including swaddles and napkins from Bed Bath & Beyond (and its Buy Buy Baby subsidiary), dresses and T-shirts from Nordstrom and socks from J.C. Penney. Bed Bath & Beyond will pay $500,000 to settle the charges, Nordstrom will pay $360,000, J.C. Penney will pay $290,000 and Backcountry.com will pay $150,000.

The FTC is also sending letters to other retailers to warn them against deceptively labeling products as bamboo. In January of 2013, four retailers, including Amazon and Macy’s, agreed to pay $1.26 million to settle similar charges.

Bamboo-derived fibers are used in a number of products. The plant is hailed for its environmental qualities, including its ability to grow quickly with only little water and no pesticides. Rayon is a chemically-processed fabric that is derived from plant cellulose, such as wood pulp. In its letter to retailers, the FTC wrote: “Although rayon fiber may be manufactured from many different cellulose sources – including bamboo – the resulting textile fiber must be identified in labeling and advertising as rayon (or viscose) and not by the cellulose source.”