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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Recall of Doll Hard For Mattel To Digest

WASHINGTON -- It was supposed to be a cute little doll that munched on plastic cookies and French fries. Instead, the Cabbage Patch Snacktime Kids became the dolls that gave Mattel Inc. a major case of heartburn.


The world's largest toymaker voluntarily pulled its Cabbage Patch Snacktime Kids off toy store shelves Monday, ordering retailers to return any unsold dolls and offering $40 refunds to any dissatisfied consumers who bought the doll.


Mattel's decision to end the latest crop of the 23-year-old doll came after the company received more than 100 reports that the snacking doll preferred to eat children's hair and fingers over the plastic foods that came with it. In two cases, the doll was even reported to be partial to pets' tails.


The reports first surfaced in early December and intensified immediately after Christmas, quickly making the misbehaved munchers the ultimate corporate nightmare for Mattel, a California company better known for its Barbie dolls, Hot Wheels cars and Fisher Price toys. Just as Johnson & Johnson had to grapple with poisoned Tylenol, the Perrier Group with contaminated water and Intel Corp. with a flawed Pentium chip, Mattel found its Ken-and-Barbie image being put to the test with highly publicized news stories and jokes by late-night talk show hosts. Jay Leno suggested Hillary Rodham Clinton liked it for its paper-shredding ability.


Mattel's decision to stop making the munching doll and offer refunds was not easy. In fact, on Dec. 31, Mattel officials initially decided that a simple warning label alerting parents that long hair or fingers could get caught in the doll's mouth and giving directions on how to stop the battery-powered mechanical jaws would suffice. Mattel announced the label just a day after the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission announced an investigation into the toy.


After problems were first reported, Mattel ran a new battery of tests and interviewed consumers who had called the company's hotline. "It certainly was causing some discomfort and displeasure, but there were no serious injuries," said James Walter, Mattel's vice president of corporate product integrity. There were mild abrasions and some lost hair, Walter said. Based on those findings, confirmed in separate CPSC tests, "Mattel was not required to do anything," Walter said. "But we felt it would be reasonable to provide a label on the product."


Still, a week later, on Jan. 6, Mattel took the ultimate step to drop the product completely, as CPSC officials urged aggressive actions and amid continuing news reports, including one of a grandmother who had gone to the hospital after her finger got stuck in the doll.


The result was the immediate end of Snacktime Kids.