Toymaker swallows pride and scraps the doll with a bite

The parents of America can sleep easy again. There are no more nuclear warheads pointing at their children from Russia, violent crime is down in almost every major city - and the Cabbage Patch Snacktime doll has been recalled.

The menace was short-lived but scary. Beckoning from toy-shop shelves since last summer, the pudgy little dollies with a ravenous appetite became one of last Christmas' hottest items. Mattel, the maker of the toy, watched with joy as sales topped the half-a-million mark.

Equipped with guppy-like mechanical mouths, the dolls are meant to munch on pieces of plastic food like chips and biscuits (also supplied by Mattel).

But it was just after Christmas that the dolls began to reveal their true mission - to snare and digest the hair of their innocent little owners.

With each day, another horror story would drop. The dolls were setting upon little girls everywhere, sucking in their locks and, in some cases, ripping them out at the roots.

With no instructions from Mattel on how the doll operated, desperate parents were at a loss as to how to stop the chewing.

After insisting that the dolls were safe, Mattel now has finally relented and agreed to stop the production line for good. All of the dolls that are still unsold in the shops (and there may not be many) will be recalled; parents who bought one can claim a $40 (pounds 23) refund from the company.

To be fair, the number of incidents reached only the tens. But Mattel knows bad publicity when it sees it.

"Our job is to bring joy into children's lives," said a repentant Jill Barad of Mattel. "If any of our products are causing concerns, we are committed to responding in a responsible manner".

There has been no fireside broadcast by the President, but the government is evidently relieved.

"These toys were certainly dismaying to parents and kids," Ann Brown of the US Consumer Product Safety Commission said yesterday.

"You don't want to come into a child's room and find a doll clinging to a child's hair."

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