Why Are Kinder Eggs Illegal?

Food Features Kinder Eggs
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Why Are Kinder Eggs Illegal?

For many, it’s more about nostalgia than taste. My great friend — whose family immigrated to the U.S. from Russia in the early 90s — described first experiencing a Kinder Egg during an extended layover in Italy over the course of their long exodus from Moscow. She recounted the charm of the thing—a milk chocolate egg that contained a tiny figurine — how magical and wonderful it had seemed to her child eyes.

This is a common sentiment among European-Americans and Americans who spend time abroad, specifically in Europe. They comprise a contingent of Kinder Egg (specifically the very popular Kinder Surprise egg) fanatics who have long been barred from enjoying their favorite treat when stateside. That’s because, since the Kinder Surprise was first developed in 1974, it has been banned by the United States Food and Drug Administration as well as the Consumer Products Safety Commission. The reason? It has been a mandate in the U.S. since the 1930’s that any food with a “non-nutritive object embedded” is strictly illegal. Most frequently, reps for these administrations cite the Kinder Surprise as a safety hazard, because it creates a choking risk.

Many enthusiasts contend that for any child over three the Kinder Surprise is totally safe, and the toy within it is nearly impossible to be swallowed. However, since it began distribution, there have been three reported deaths caused by the Kinder Surprise — which, when one considers the billions that are sold each year, doesn’t really seem to put it in the obvious threat category. The Independent suggested back in 2015 that the reason the Kinder Surprise remained banned in the U.S., and the embargo on it so inflexible, was less likely the result of safety concerns, and more likely the result of concerted lobbying by Mars Incorporated, a major confectionary in competition with Ferrero International (which has notably made its name stateside in Nutella distribution), the maker of Kinder Eggs.

All this drama and legalese hasn’t necessarily stopped the pro-Kinder Egg camp from smuggling the treats in the U.S. In fact, it’s been quite common on a small scale, but less so on a distribution level. (In 2011, for example, 60,000 Kinder Eggs were confiscated at the U.S.-Canada border.) It does create a pang of unfairness, since the Kinder Surprise is in every major market besides the U.S. And in those markets nearly 3.5 billion Kinder Surprise eggs are sold each year — which speaks to both their wide distribution and wild popularity. For 43 years over here in the United States, we’ve been missing out on these sweet treats with the tiny collectibles inside. But not for much longer.

Ferrero announced a few weeks back that they will begin distribution of an FDA-compliant version of the Kinder Surprise in the U.S. as soon as early 2018. The totally safe and entirely legal version will be called Kinder Joy. Comprised of two separately sealed plastic halves, the
“non-nutritive object” will be safely removed from the “nutritive” candy portion. One half contains a milk cream with cocoa flavoring and wafer bites, to be eaten with a tiny spoon (which is included — ah, so cute!), while the other half contains one of the coveted Kinder keepsakes.

The Kinder Joy isn’t an entirely new concept. The candy maker has, in fact, been distributing the treat to sell in warmer markets since 2001. But that hasn’t mitigated the celebration among enthusiasts in the United States who are finally, finally going to be able to catch a bus to pick up their favorite treat instead of catching a flight.

The Kinder Egg line is inspired by an Italian Easter tradition of gifting a large chocolate egg with toys inside to children, reflecting the same sort of whimsy that has won the scaled-down Kinder Surprise so many devoted fans. With the inception of the Kinder Joy, Americans will finally be able to get in on the fun that the rest of the world’s been having since the Kinder Surprise made its debut in 1974. Keep an eye out for the Kinder Joy at local stores across the U.S. as soon as January 2018.

Photo by Derek Key, CC BY 2.0