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Taco Bell Asks Customers to Return Toys : Safety: The fast-food chain says promotional finger puppets and inflatable balls resulted in several complaints.

April 13, 1993|TED JOHNSON | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

IRVINE — Taco Bell Corp. on Monday asked customers to return promotional finger puppets and inflatable balls after receiving reports that some children got their tongues stuck in the puppets and that others became dizzy after trying to inflate the balls.

The restaurant chain, a unit of Pepsico Inc., said it will give a free taco for each toy returned to any of its 3,700 locations.

"Taco Bell has elected to voluntarily recall both items from our stores to eliminate any possibility of future customer discomfort and inconvenience," spokeswoman Janis Smith said at the company's Irvine headquarters.

From Jan. 25 to March 28, Taco Bell distributed with its Kid's Meals an estimated 500,000 finger puppets depicting Lowly Worm and Huckle Cat from the children's book "The Busy World of Richard Scarry."

Though no serious injuries were reported, Taco Bell received three complaints that children got the toys stuck in their mouths when they put their tongues in the finger holes. Two children had to have the toys removed by doctors, Smith said.

The chain also gave out 80,000 inflatable balls depicting the Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoon characters, but the items were so difficult to inflate that several children suffered slight dizziness, Smith said.

"No one actually called the corporation and complained, but we got reports from managers that they were just really tough to blow up," Smith said of the balls. "They are supposed to be round, but they aren't."

The balls, distributed from March 29 to March 31, were also offered with Kid's Meals as part of a new advertising campaign featuring Rocky and Bullwinkle.

Before distribution, both toys passed mandatory testing by the Consumer Product Safety Commission in Washington, a spokesman for the commission said. The puppets were made by Dyna Toys and the balls by Limited Edition Inc., both of Hong Kong.

Taco Bell has set up a toll-free consumer hot line at (800) 374-8220 to handle customer inquiries.

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