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Getting what you paid for: Cotton DNA exposes low quality products

Tagging cotton to verify authenticity

When it comes to pricey cotton shirts and bed sheets, how do you really know you're getting what you paid for? Last Fall the linen industry was rocked by news sheets supposedly made out of high quality Egyptian cotton were really lower quality blends. New technology that tags cotton with DNA may help weed out future frauds.

The feel, the look, the durability.. there's no question high quality cottons have an advantage. But what about buying online or in a big box store, can you trust the label?

"We couldn't find more than 20% true to label. That is a huge problem," explains Pimacott CEO David Greenstein. His company is the first to adopt technology to tag, track and trace cotton through the production and supply chain. He says this cotton DNA process can verify authenticity. "Every time we make a statement our product is 100% Pima, we want to be 100% sure of that," he adds.

One of Bed Bath and Beyond's labels is now stamped with the Pimacott guarantee. Bed Bath and Beyond along with Walmart, Target and JC Penney discovered last fall a line of fakes in the sheets they were selling. They were not the premium Egyptian cotton sheets they were supposed to be selling, but instead a lower quality product. They cut ties with the manufacturer implicated in India, Welspun.

New technology from Applied DNA Sciences in New York may be the answer. It's based on plant DNA. "We use that DNA to create a unique molecular signature, or bar code," explains MeiLin Wan, VP of textile sales at ADNAS. She tells us the DNA is sprayed on the cotton fibers at the gin, then finished products are tested before sale. That ensures inferior cotton wasn't substituted somewhere along the production chain.

Experts say the real thing, those Pima and Egyptian cottons are well worth the price. "They are extra long fibers and make beautifully soft sheets, that last a long time," remarks Greenstein. And in time cotton DNA could become the standard protecting not only a trusted brand name, but you the consumer.

Three sheets in Homewood offered this advice for caring for luxury linens:

*Avoid fabric softeners and brighteners that come in regular laundry detergent. They break down the fibers in sheets.

*Look for washing products designed just for linens.

*Have a couple of sets of sheets, so you can rotate use and wash less.

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