A popular teething toy for infants is susceptible to mold, according to some parents who took a closer look at the inside of the toy.
Pediatric dentist Dana Chianese said she used to recommend the Sophie the Giraffe teething toy to parents regularly. But that was before she made a discovery in her own children's Sophies.
Chianese said she noticed an unpleasant smell coming from a hole in the toy when she went to clean it recently.
"I decided to cut into Sophie out of curiosity and discovered a science experiment living inside," Chianese told Good Housekeeping. "Smelly, ugly mold living in my infant's favorite chew toy."
Chianese said she had cleaned the toy before, following its cleaning instructions to use hot, soapy water and a damp sponge. She had always avoided submerging the toy in water, as the instructions directed.
But when she cut the toy open, she found spores of black mold attached to the toy's rubber.
"It still hurts my heart to know that for months I allowed my babies to chew on moldy toys," she told Good Housekeeping. "I no longer buy any chew toys with a hole or recommend any to my patients."
After Chianese's discovery was made public, other parents began inspecting their rubber giraffes and took to social media and product reviews to share their experiences.
"Beware! If you have a drooly baby, moisture will get in the hole and you'll end up with mold," one Amazon customer wrote last year. "We've had ours for two years and the entire inside is coated with black mold."
Vulli, the French company that makes the Sophie toy, says moisture should not get inside the toy giraffe.
Other parents said they found their children's Sophie toys to be clean and safe.
According to Lyuba Konopasek, an assistant professor of pediatrics at New York Presbyterian/Weil Cornell Medical Center, exposure to mold in toys is usually OK, except in cases in which a child has an immune disorder. Those with mold allergies may experience coughing and itchy eyes.
"The only way to prevent mold inside plastic toys is to make sure they are cleaned and thoroughly dried," said Carolyn Forte, director of the Cleaning Lab at the Good Housekeeping Institute.
Forte advised washing plastic toys in hot, sudsy water or in the dishwasher.
"Each complaint received is taken very seriously and ... the return of the product is always asked for further examination," Schraenen told Good Housekeeping in a statement. "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."