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Nearly 20% of cotton-containing tested products traced to Xinjiang, China: report

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More than 800 items, including apparel and footwear, had fibers from the contested region, despite U.S. bans over forced labor concerns.

By Lauren Schenkman

Uyghur laborers

Dive Brief:

  • Cotton from the Xinjiang region of China was found in 19% of 822 cotton-containing products sampled from February 2023 to March 2024, according to a report provided to Fashion Dive by Applied DNA Sciences.
  • The private company, which provides technology-based supply chain certification, also found that of the Xinjiang-positive samples claimed to be of single-origin, 57%  were labeled as containing U.S.-only cotton. Products from the Xinjiang region are banned from sale in the U.S. due to concerns over forced labor, and the report noted that claims of origin affect a product’s eligibility for tariff reductions when imported to the U.S.
  • Of the tested Xinjiang-positive samples, 66% were blended with cotton from other regions, while 34% were solely from Xinjiang, per the report. Of the blended samples, 42% contained cotton from Brazil, and 40% contained cotton from the U.S.

Dive Insight:

  • Applied DNA Sciences tested various products sold both domestically and abroad for isotopes, which are forms of elements that indicate where a plant was grown. Items in the testing group included yarn, fabric, apparel, footwear, and consumer products, such as cotton swabs. 
  • The prevalence of Xinjiang cotton in the new study was higher than what was indicated via isotope testing by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which, according to Reuters, previously found that 15% of 86 samples of imported clothes and shoes collected between Dec. 22, 2022 and May 23, 2023 contained Xinjiang cotton. However, these samples only included clothes and shoes.
  • “These results are highly concerning given the prevalence of Xinjiang cotton in a wide range of apparel, footwear, home textiles, and other consumer products,”  MeiLin Wan, vice president of textile sales at Applied DNA Sciences, said in an email to Fashion Dive. “Under the UFLPA, the amount of Xinjiang cotton entering the U.S. should be zero. Anything above zero percent should be eliminated.”