TORONTO – A new doll unveiled this week has sparked outrage and claims the toy “encourages eating disorders” and unhealthy eating patterns in children.
Unveiled at the London Toy Fair earlier this week, the ‘Nenuco Won’t Eat’ doll reportedly turns its head away when it is offered food with a magnetic spoon. The doll’s head continues to turn its head away until the child correctly aligns the spoon with the doll’s mouth and presses the spoon against the doll’s lips.
The doll’s maker Famosa says the doll represents what happens in real life and represents “the real difficulties mothers face when feeding a baby.”
“We know that children often don’t eat what they are given, but the doll is designed to show them how important it is that they eat properly,” said Nikki Jeffery, the U.K. marketing director for Famosa in an interview with the Daily Mail. “It is about enabling young girls to have the closest experience possible to being a ‘real mum.'”
Jeffery denies the company is encouraging children not to eat.
“The idea is that the child understands the doll is being mischievous and that the child encourages the doll to eat the food, just as a parent does with their child,” she said.
In a statement on its website, Famosa wrote that “this is the healthy, positive and fundamental learning message promoted by ‘Nenuco Won’t Eat’ and not any of the other out-of-context messages that have been attributed to it.”
Mental health advocates, however, say companies need to think closely about the message they are potentially promoting when they create a toy and say the ‘Nenuco Won’t Eat’ doll sends a subliminal message to children that “encourages them to refuse food.”
“This doll sends the wrong message to children and encourages them to think that refusing food is normal behaviour,” said YoungMinds, an organization that focuses on children and young people’s well-being and mental health. “We would not want children to be influenced by this, and are concerned that it promotes unhealthy attitudes towards food and body image.”
Many turned to social media to express their mixed reactions:
The ‘Nenuco Won’t Eat’ was awarded the ‘Best New Toy’ at the Toy Fair in London. The doll is set to go on sale in stores across Europe next month.