For years, the words, “organic mattress” and supposedly certified organic raw materials have been used and abused by the mattress industry (especially lately, as business gets tough and more businesses are jumping on the “green” wagon).
It appears that the USDA is finally starting to take notice, and not only are they investigating retailers claiming to sell “organic mattresses,” but I have heard from raw material vendors that they are being evaluated as well.
USDA Investigating Mattress Retailer for Misuse of the Term “Organic”
As previously reported in an October 28, 2009 BedTimes Bulletin, over the past year, the Federal Trade Commission has sued several apparel manufacturers for falsely claiming that their products were made with “bamboo fiber,” when in fact they are more accurately described as containing just “rayon,” or at most, “rayon made from bamboo.”
ISPA has learned that another federal agency – the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) – is investigating a mattress retailer for possible misuse of the term “organic mattress.” USDA has jurisdiction to decide whether organic claims for textile products (including mattresses) are accurate. USDA’s National Organic Program (NOP) regulates when a particular agricultural product may be called “organic.” In general, the agricultural raw material (in the case of textiles, the cotton, linen, hemp, wool, etc. fiber) must be produced in compliance with USDA’s NOP rules (which govern the kinds of fertilizers that may be used to grow plants organically, the foods fed to the animals, etc.) In addition, the NOP rules require a qualified third party to certify that the grower runs a certified organic operation. The grower’s fulfillment of these requirements allows the fiber itself to be called “certified organic.”
We understand, however, that since cleaning and dyeing materials used to convert the raw fiber into a textile do not meet NOP standards, USDA would not allow the fabric manufacturer to claim that the fabric itself is organic. Rather, USDA would allow the fabric producer to claim only that the fabric is “made with certified organic cotton” (or wool, linen, etc., as relevant).
USDA also appears to be taking the position that retailers of finished textile products like mattresses may at most claim that the fiber used in the textile is certified organic, and cannot claim that the mattress is made from “organic ticking” or “organic upholstery material,” or that the mattress itself is “organic.”
In light of this investigation, mattress manufacturers and retailers that are making “organic” product claims should review their product packaging and advertising materials, and consult with qualified legal counsel, to confirm whether those claims meet the NOP requirements.