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Mislabeled Cashmere Products Discovery Prompts Massive Recall In Japan

The discovery by the Boston-based Cashmere and Camel Hair Manufacturers Institute (CCMI) of garments shipped to Japan that had been fraudulently labeled as cashmere has prompted a recall of more than 800,000 mislabeled sweaters and mufflers. The products, imported from China by a number of companies and delivered to department stores and supermarkets in Japan, had been mislabeled in violation of Japan’s Household Goods Quality Labeling Act and Unjustifiable Premiums and Mislabeling Prevention Act.

“We had representative garments tested at independent laboratories and they were found to have actual cashmere content significantly less than that stated on the labels,” said Kenneth Shimizu, CCMI’s Japan representative. CCMI — which conducts monitoring and enforcement activities to protect the integrity of cashmere and camel hair textile products — provided the testing results to the retailers, who contacted the garment importers, who then tested products yet to be delivered.

Mislabeled cashmere products originating in China have been found not only in Japan, but also in the United States and Europe, according to Karl Spilhaus, president, CCMI. He said retailers and importers should have garments tested at CCMI-approved analytical laboratories, as inexperienced laboratories will fail to identify fine-micron Chinese native sheep wool that may have been treated deliberately with harsh chemicals that damage the fiber structure. He added that yak fiber, which is difficult to identify as well, has also been found in woven cashmere products originating both in China and in Europe.

“These problems could have been avoided by sufficient attention, on the part of the importers, to the quality of the articles sourced in China,” Spilhaus said, while at the same time commending the Japanese retailers and importers for taking responsibility once the mislabeling was discovered.

“This is about fairness of trade and protection of consumers,” Shimizu added, noting that although CCMI has litigated in cases of mislabeled products in the United States and Europe, “our ultimate objective is not prosecution.”

February 20, 2007