Mark Steyn

Steyn on Culture

A Kinder, Gentler America ...By Half

Longtime readers (and radio listeners, and telly viewers) will know that one of my surest-fire bits of shtick in recent years has been my family's showdown with the Department of Homeland Security over Kinder Surprise eggs. Alas, all good things must come to an end. Many correspondents wrote to alert me to this breaking news:

Kinder Surprise Eggs are considered one of the greatest chocolate treasures in Europe. However, we Americans have been missing out on the chocolate egg and mini toy product, because the FDA banned them in the '70s as a choking hazard.

But now is the time to rejoice, candy lovers, because Italian candymaker Ferrero revealed on Monday that a special version of these chocolates will debut in the U.S in 2018.

Whoa, hold up a minute...whaddaya mean a "special version" of these chocolates? Well, it seems American moppets (unlike Canadian moppets, German moppets, Saudi moppets, Chinese moppets and all other moppets save Chile's) still cannot be trusted with Kinder Surprise eggs - because the surprise is a toy inside the egg, which the Government of the United States bans as a "non-nutritive embed". And the prohibitions on "non-nutritive embeds" are among those regulations President Trump has apparently not repealed. So American customers will have to make do with some pansified "special version" called a Kinder Joy egg, in which the "non-nutritive embed" is no longer embedded inside the egg. Instead, the egg will have two separate halves - a chocolate half, and a toy half, containing the "non-nutritive" part. And ne'er the twain shall meet. The brown chocolate and the white plastic shall be equal but separate.

[UPDATE! I liked this pithy comment from reader Liz Bakoss: "Hollow victory?"]

I doubt William Salice, who died a few months ago at the age of 83, would be happy about this. He was the right-hand man to Michelle Ferrero, purveyor of Ferrero Rocher, Nutella and other fine Italian products and was tasked by the boss with finding a year-round use for the company's chocolate-egg molds then only used in the run-up to Easter. Mr Salice succeeded brilliantly, not just for the Italian market but all around the world - except Chile plus the Land of the Free and the Home of Nutritive Embeds Only. So it looks like my kids will still be cocking a snook at Homeland Security by scoffing them on the side of the road a hundred yards north of the US border post at Pittsburg, NH.

As you know, I have some previous with this. So here, for old time's sake, is my piece "Choc and Awe", which can be found in my book The [Un]documented Mark Steyn:

Heading back from Montreal late the other night, I pulled up in front of the guard on the US side of the Quebec/Vermont border. He asked the usual questions, and then said, "Are you bringing anything back from Canada?"

"Oh, just some Easter eggs," I said, breezily - and instantly regretted it.

The hitherto somewhat somnolent agent sprang visibly alert. "Easter eggs?" he said, with a palpable menace in his voice.

"Not Kinder eggs," I replied, trying very hard not to roll my eyes. "Just regular home-made Québécois Easter chocolate."

He de-bristled, and waved us through. "Close call, Dad," said my daughter.

Indeed. I'd smuggle in a dirty nuke before I'd risk another Kinder egg in the car. Three Easters ago, the United States Government gave me a delightful seasonal gift of a Department of Homeland Security "Custody Receipt for Seized Property and Evidence". Late the previous night, crossing the self-same Quebec/Vermont border post, my children had had two boxes of "Kinder Eggs" ("Est. Dom. Value $7.50″) confiscated by Customs & Border Protection.

Don't worry, it's for their own safety. Hitherto, I had had no idea that the United States is the only nation on the planet (well, okay, excepting North Korea and Saudi Arabia and one or two others) to ban Kinder Eggs. According to the CBP:

Kinder Chocolate Eggs are hollow milk chocolate eggs about the size of a large hen's egg usually packaged in a colorful foil wrapper. They are a popular treat and collector's item during holiday periods in various countries around the world, including those in Europe, South America and even Canada. A toy within the egg is contained in an oval-shaped plastic capsule. The toy requires assembly and each egg contains a different toy. Many of the toys that have been tested by the Consumer Product Safety Commission in the past were determined to present a choking hazard for young children.

And yet oddly enough generations of European and Latin American children remain unchoked. Gotta love that "even Canada," by the way: Is that an implied threat that Kinder Egg consumption is incompatible with participation in NORAD or membership of NAFTA?

The Food and Drug Administration has issued an import alert for Kinder Eggs, because they are a confectionery product with a non-nutritive object imbedded in it. As in years past, CBP, the Food and Drug Administration and CPSC work in close collaboration to ensure the safety of imported goods by examining, sampling and testing products that may present such import safety hazards. Last year, CBP officers discovered more than 25,000 of these banned chocolate eggs. More than 2,000 separate seizures were made of this product.

Let's see — CBP, FDA, CPSC. I'm impressed it takes a mere three agencies from the vast alphabet soup of federal regulation to keep us safe from the menace of confectionery products with non-nutritive embeds.

Unlike the procedures for preventing jihadists from shooting up military bases or blowing up the Boston Marathon, in this case the system worked. This Easter as in previous Easters, I hope America's chocolate soldiers are enjoying their seized eggs.

Bonus prediction: What's the betting that the first jihadist to weaponize a Kinder Egg makes it on to the plane?

PS My kids asked the CBP seizure squad if they could eat the chocolate in front of the border guards while the border guards held on to the toys to prevent any choking hazard — and then, having safely consumed the chocolate, take the toys home as a separate item. This request was denied, and, indeed, my ten-year-old was told that by proposing it he was obstructing a federal official in the course of his duties. Ah, it warmed the cockles of my heart to see the l'il chip off the old block in action.

It could have been a lot worse, as the Kinder agent warned us. It could have been a $300 fine, plus a $250 fee for seized-egg storage.

PPS The real choking hazard is the vise-like grip of government.

PPPS My children are three years older now, and can take or leave Kinder eggs. But, precisely because of that CBP guard, they make a point of always eating some whenever we're north of the border. I'm worried that, by making Kinder eggs cool and transgressive, the Department of Homeland Security has increased the exposure of my children to this "choking hazard". Maybe I can get in on a class-action law suit against DHS...

Here's how I recalled the incident on The Rush Limbaugh Show a couple of years ago:

Happy Easter. And let's make George Bush's vision of a Kinder, gentler America a reality.

~from The [Un]documented Mark Steyn, personally autographed copies of which are exclusively available from the SteynOnline bookstore. Those Kinder aficionados (or otherwise) who are Founding Members of The Mark Steyn Club are free to add their own non-nutritive embeds to this piece by commenting below.

from Steyn on Culture, May 27, 2017


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