It was about a month ago when pediatric dentist Dana Chianese, DMD, decided to examine her son's Sophie the Giraffe teether a little more closely, after noticing a weird, musty smell coming out of the toy's hole.
So gross! Especially considering the fastidious mom said she had always cleaned the toy according to instructions, with a damp sponge and hot, soapy water, careful not to ever submerge it in water.
"It still hurts my heart to know that for months I allowed my babies to chew on moldy toys," Dr. Chianese said. "I no longer buy any chew toys with a hole or recommend any to my patients."
"Sophie is now residing at her new home at the dump," she wrote. "Just a little heads up to other moms who have this toy."
Meanwhile, over on the Sophie the Giraffe Facebook page, the company addressed the issue of mold by basically placing responsibility on the teethers' owners.
"It's important to know that Sophie la girafe is composed of 100 percent natural rubber, so the cleaning instructions have to be carefully respected," the company wrote without apology. "It should not be immersed in the water nor rinsed off, to prevent water from getting inside, as she may become damaged. We thus would like to emphasize on the fact that is it important, while cleaning the product, that no water gets inside the hole." The company then, oddly enough, tacked on a link and invited their followers to "watch the following video to see how Sophie is made."
Way to take an opportunity for accountability and turn it into a sales pitch, guys! Hopefully the company will smarten up and do the right thing by issuing a recall alert and replacement/refund, like Tommee Tippee did last year after customers discovered mold growing inside some of the brand's sippy cups.
At that time, the Consumer Product Safety Commission advised that "mold ingestion poses a risk of gastrointestinal symptoms and infections in consumers with compromised immune systems." Dr. Lyuba Konopasek, an assistant professor of pediatrics at New York Presbyterian/Weil Cornell Medical Center, also told Care.com that children with mold allergies may experience symptoms such as coughing and itchy eyes.
The only way to avoid mold buildup in hollow toys like Sophie is to clean them properly, and often, according to Carolyn Forte, the director of the Cleaning Lab at the Good Housekeeping Institute. Cleaning these toys properly means using hot, soapy water and/or the dishwasher about once a week. Afterwards, soak the toy for five minutes in a disinfectant solution such as 1/2 cup Clorox bleach per gallon of water. Rise, and air dry.
Parents.com reached out to the company that manufactures Sophie the Giraffe, which said it had not been contacted directly by any of the moms who shared photos of their moldy Sophies. However, based on the assessment the company's quality department made from the pictures shown in the CNN article: "It is not possible that saliva could cause the type of mold formation shown in the pictures. Internal studies have been conducted and indicated that it is improbable (or in really rare cases) that saliva can transform into mold. It seems that the inside body of the giraffe is still wet, which leads us to believe that there was presence of water inside the giraffe, which caused the mold. This situation is often seen with bath toys. We can furthermore assert that this situation occurred after the product was purchased. Therefore, it is important to be careful while cleaning the toy to ensure that no water gets inside the giraffe."
The company also added the following statement: "Please know that each complaint received is taken very seriously and that the return of the product is always asked for further examination."