Friday, April 7, 2017

The Mysterious Kinder Surprise Egg

UPDATE: Kinder Eggs are now legal in the USA but when this feature was first written, they were not!

You may have seen some Kinder products in really big grocery stores or speciality shops in the USA but may not have ever seen a  Kinder Surprise. Why? Because they are illegal to import into the country. A friend of mine was in Europe and he brought me one back... This was a complete surprise to me! I wanted to use this "gift" to research why these items can't be bought in the USA and how long that has been the case. Then I'll show you what is inside of one. I have no children in my household so no one messed with this but me and my partners.

First off, even though it is illegal to import this product you can find them as a small number of European specialty markets. A recent report from CBS found these illegal eggs widely available in shops around NYC. How do they get them? Obviously they have to be imported but my guess is that much like my friend did, these stores aren't importing through proper channels. The Kinder Surprise is legal in both Canada and Mexico so it wouldn't be difficult to sneak them in from those countries. Stories I heard on Facebook while I was preparing this article confirmed that some people have indeed brought them across these borders or tried to.

Why are they illegal in the USA? The reissued Import Alert #34-02 which was published on March 15, 2017, so this year, states" Section 402(d)(1) of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act provides that confectionery having partially, or completely imbedded therein, any non-nutritive object is adulterated unless FDA has issued a regulation recognizing that the non-nutritive object is of practical functional value to the confectionery product and would not render the product injurious or hazardous to health. 

Yowie Boof Egg
Basically this looks like a law trying to minimize any risk to consumers and that many seem reasonable to many of us. Note that today, many people cite a risk to small children but that is not in the code above. The ban goes back to 1938 and it stated what is in italics above. However there are other chocolate and candy items sold in the USA that do have toys inside of them, one is called Choco Treasure which boldly states on their website that you can get them if you live in the USA. In my local Target I found Yowie Eggs that have a plastic critter inside of chocolate.The existence of both of these products suggests that claims of bias against only certain countries or products may be onto something but it is only suggestive, it isn't proven.

Both the non-Kinder eggs have larger sections along the side that indicate something inside, both state that the product is in two parts, and the thing inside of the plastic under the milk chocolate isn't something with small parts that you have to put together, it already is a little toy. Below you can see the little whale shark in the Yowie I found at Target.

Yowie Inside with Whale Shark Toy

Why was the ban created in 1938? If we can figure that out, we'll understand what is going on but discovering this was a challenge. The FDA itself give only a brief online history of this act giving credit to the efforts of women’s groups, pioneered policies designed to protect the pocketbooks of consumers and not mentioning any big business push. Oh, candy businesses have certainly used the ACT to help fight off importation of certain products but why if it is illegal to have non-food items inside of candy? What is the competition exactly if you can make similar types of products in the USA? Is the Choco Treasure and the Yowie really that much safer?

Now, before you say "But my kid's cereal has a toy in it?" note that the toy is in the box not inside the cereal. Same thing for toys attached to the packaging of a candy bar or in the Easter Basket of goodies you might be looking for. Those Choco Treasures and the Yowie Eggs I mentioned above have distinct sections so that no one would think the non-food item was part of the food. However have you seen kids eat or just put random things in their mouth? I have, I don't the risk is really in how the egg is made but simply that kids will put things in their mouths that they aren't supposed to. Parents, babysitters, grandparents, whomever, cannot keep their kids under lockdown at all times. Accidents will happen and they have with this product from time to time.

So what the heck does this Kinder Surprise look like inside that foil wrapper? Let's find out.

Kinder Surprise Egg Unwrapped
The egg itself appears to be milk chocolate. There is a lightly colored seam so I used a knife to cut it open and it took effort. I suppose a kid might just bite into it but frankly I'd be more worried about them eating the foil instead of unwrapping it. Inside the egg is white and there a yellow capsule, a big yellow capsule about the same size of the egg.
Kinder Surprise Opened
Popping the yellow capsule open I discovered several small items including a printed warning, printed directions, some stickers, and four orange pieces that I think you put together to make a robot.

Robot and Stickers from Kinder Surprise
At this point I had to ask my partner for help because the photos in the warning and directions didn't make a lot of sense. Perhaps I'm not as clever as a kid or perhaps they'd just eat these?

Robot from Kinder Surprise

Lindor Milk Chocolate Truffle Egg
There you have it. Don't import them, don't try to sneak them in your luggage, don't risk it, because to be rather blunt, the milk and white chocolate didn't impress me. You can find better chocolate (like this Lindor Milk Chocolate Egg) and toys you don't have to put together. You can find these is Easter Baskets or buy them separately to create your own gift for the holiday. Plus let's not break the law, folks. Please. Let's all focus on good chocolate with the least amount of danger to us all.

But hey, if you are in a country that has Kinder Surprise, enjoy!

Online Articles Used to Write this Article:

1: "Why are Kinder Surprise Eggs Illegal in the USA?"

2: Wikipedia Article

3: Kinder Surprise USA

4: FDA Alert

5: FDA article about history of 1938 Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act

6: Giants in Candy

7: CBSNewYork Report


Derek said...

Interesting article -- nice combination of history and chocolate. Got to keep an eye out for those adulterated confections with toys inside (at least here in the US)!

TammyJo Eckhart said...

Thank you! It was interesting to try one out, a bit frustrating to try and research it, so I'm glad it made sense. I went back and re-edited it this morning again so I'm glad that improved it.

Karen said...

Thanks! I'd always wondered about the why on these not being available here (knowing a lot of people who are from elsewhere or have visited elsewhere who are rather annoyed by that fact). I've got no skin in this game as I can't eat milk or white chocolate anyway, but it was a fascinating read. They are kind of cute.

Dragonwriter said...

I think the answer to your question about non-food products in food can be found in Prohibition and a sad condition where the victim was paralyzed in the lower extremities. I think the condition was called Shake Leg. It was not the result of a disease, but of poisoning. And the story I read, which I think was in the Smithsonian Magazine, went like this.

During prohibition, certain alcoholic concoctions could be sold if they contained more than a certain amount of particulate matter, so the producers of it got around that by adding a non-food particular matter. I think it was wood pulp. People -- mostly poor black people, and that included a lot of jazz singers -- drank it because it was far cheaper than smuggled alcohol. But sometimes the particulate matter was this poisonous substance, and the people drinking the concoction were poisoned, But since they were the poor black people, it didn't get much National Attention. Eventually a small group with a particular focus got enough of the Government to care, enough to establish the FDA.

Since I'm pulling this out of the back rooms of my brain, and I read it years and years ago, I do not swear to the details. But if you are still interested, I think this might contain some good leads to follow.

Thank you for your opinion on the eggs. I've always wondered how they were, but forgot to search for any while in Europe last summer.

TammyJo Eckhart said...

Thanks, Karen, for your comments.

Dragonwriter, thanks for your information. I looked a lot for the law itself from 1938 and didn't see the issue you mention above at all. That suggests the line between the two isn't strange. I do know that for well over a century there was no oversight for foods that were made and sold in the USA. It took a lot of actions including the work of author, Upton Sinclair, to open people's eyes and then for the people to demand action.

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