Well, this is gross and scary. According to some parents, the popular teething toy Sophie the Giraffe has a mold problem. That's not so good, especially since the toy is specifically designed to spend a lot of time inside babies's mouths.
Update: In an email to Romper, a Sophie the Giraffe spokesperson reiterated the statement previously given to Good Housekeeping. "It's an isolated issue it's probably due to improper storage and improper care of the product," they said.
According to a new report in Good Housekeeping, a mother and pediatric dentist named Dana Chianese who had wholeheartedly bought into the Sophie craze noticed a strange smell coming from the toy. When she cut open the Sophie the Giraffe that her sons went wild over, she, as she told the magazine, "discovered a science experiment living inside... Smelly, ugly mold living in my infant's favorite chew toy!" Romper reached out to the makers of Sophie the Giraffe for comment but did not immediately hear back.
Chianese wasn't the only one to discover black mold inside the toy. A user on Amazon also found that her toy's interior was a startling contrast to its cheerful exterior, and posted a warning to other moms who might have the product. (Hint: there are a lot of them. Sophie the Giraffe is wildly popular, regularly ranking at the top of the Amazon list of bestselling teething toys, despite some parents complaining that it's a bit expensive.)
However, before you immediately toss your Sophie the Giraffe in the garbage, there are a couple of factors to consider.
The toys are meant to be cleaned in a specific way. The website specifically states to clean Sophie the Giraffe with "a damp cloth and soapy water," and to not immerse her in water. The presence of water getting trapped inside the toy's hole is likely what causes the mold to grow, so if you've been sure to prevent that, the inside of your Sophie may look very different. (However, Chianese told Good Housekeeping that she always followed the cleaning instructions. Plus, some moisture getting inside the hole seems inevitable, if the toy is regularly covered in baby drool.)
On top of that, it turns out that, aside from the obvious ick factor, the mold may not be so dangerous for an infant. According to an article on Care.com, exposure to the mold inside of a toy is generally limited, so the likelihood of getting sick from it, according to Dr. Lyuba Konopasek, an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at New York Presbyterian/Weil Cornell Medical Center, is very low, unless your child has a mold allergy. (A child with a mold allergy, however, might experience symptoms like itchy rashes and coughing.)
The company responded to Good Housekeeping with a statement saying,
First of all, it's important to know that Sophie la Girafe [Sophie the Giraffe] is composed of 100% natural rubber, so the cleaning instructions have to be carefully respected. As indicated on the packaging and in an explanatory leaflet inside the packaging, we recommend to clean the surface of Sophie la Girafe with a damp cloth. 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 whole. As of now, we have not been contacted by Mrs. Chianese nor Mrs. Opera and were not aware of the situation before reading your article. It is thus difficult for us to comment on the current situation, as we haven't had the chance to examine the products.
Please know that each complaint received is taken very seriously and that the return of the product is always asked for further examination. Furthermore, please know that the safety of children and satisfaction of their parents is our main priority. For the past 55 years, we have always strived to exceed security standards and all of our products comply with the most stringent global standards.
So with all that said, maybe consider taking a pause on Sophie teething time for a little while, until this gets cleared up or you're able to double check that your own tot's teething toy is cleaned and dried properly. And if you do find mold? Let the company know ASAP and get your little one a new Sophie la Girafe.