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Chile bans Kinder Surprise egg

Carla BleikerJune 28, 2016

The South American country introduced one of the strictest food labeling laws in the world and the chocolate egg landed on the chopping block. Chile isn't the only country where the kid-targeted candy is prohibited.

Hand holding two Kinder Surprise eggs with little toys. (Photo: picture alliance/ZB/N. Bachmann)
Image: picture alliance/ZB/N. Bachmann

No more surprises for children in Chile: A new law bans chocolate Kinder Surprise eggs, which contain a plastic container with a little figurine or toy inside. The restriction states that companies cannot promote food items high in sugar or fats with "commercial hooks."

Since those hooks include "toys, accessories, incentives or other similar items," it's not just the little chocolate eggs that are banned, but also McDonald's original Happy Meals, which serve up a toy along with fries and Chicken McNuggets.

"The Happy Meal as it is today, from a nutritional perspective, is not ‘happy'. It has excessive salt, sugar, and saturated fats," Tito Pizarro, the head of public policy at Chile's Health Ministry, told local radio AND.

The fast food chain has reduced unhealthy ingredients like sugar and saturated fats in its children's meals in Chile to comply with the new law and will thus continue to be sold.

That's not the case with the Kinder Surprise eggs.

Fight the fat

Ferrero, the company that makes the Kinder eggs and distributes them across the world, is allegedly considering to take legal action against the ban of their product. Customers aren't happy either.

"I really liked the candy that has the toys," news agency Associated Press quotes 10-year-old Chilean Pablo Araya. "I collect the cars that come with the Kinder Surprise. I will miss it."

It is for children like Araya that the new law was drawn up. Foods high in salt, sugar, saturated fats, and calories must now be clearly identified according to a strict catalog, mustn't be sold in schools and cannot be advertised to children younger than 14.

Chile fights obesity

"This will be the most demanding law in the world as it follows a series of recommendations by the World Health Organization," Paloma Cuchi, WHO's regional representative, told the Associated Press.

Chile's health ministry says that five of 10 children in the country are obese. One in three children under six is overweight.

No surprise in the US

The United States has its own problems with obesity and Kinder Surprise Eggs are banned here, too - but for a different reason. In 1938, the US passed the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. In section 402 (d), it says that confectionary is deemed "adulterated" and not to be sold if it contains non-nutritive objects.

The toy race cars or tiny hippo figurines inside the Kinder Surprise that children in other countries love so much are exactly what this act is talking about. Exceptions are only made for objects "of practical functional value to the confectionery product," which obviously does not apply to little toys called Happy Hippos.

One worry is that children could choke on the toys. Once you see how the egg is set up, that seems somewhat unlikely. You have to peel back the wrapping to get to the chocolate egg, which easily splits into two halves. Inside is the hard-plastic capsule that contains the toy.

The US does actually enforce its "No Kinder Surprise" policy. In 1997, a candy importer in Chicago recalled 5,000 Kinder eggs "in cooperation with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC)," according to the CPSC website. Anyone bringing the prohibited chocolate into the country, even tourists, can be fined up to 2,500 dollars (2,260 Euros) per egg. Some travelers are still willing to take the risk for friends or family in the US - and even joke about their illegal activities.

"I myself have risked jail, huge fines, and lethal injection (maybe) to smuggle Kinder eggs to my niece in Philly, only to find out months later that she never bothered to open the package," Berlin-based journalist Simon Bone said.

Violence vs. chocolate

Many social media users have repeatedly pointed out how counter-intuitive it feels that chocolate eggs with toys are prohibited in a country that seems to freely hand out weapons to almost anyone who wants one.

In 2012, a gunman shot and killed 20 young children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. After that, the NGO "Moms demand action" decided it was "time to sound the alarm." With a series of campaign photos, they also drew attention to the fact that Kinder Surprise eggs were far less lethal than assault rifles, yet the eggs were banned to protect children and guns weren't.

"We wanted our ads to reflect the absurdity of our country's current lax laws and weak regulation of guns," the founder of the group Shannon Watts told online news aggregator The Huffington Post in 2013.

Since then, not much has changed. The US has seen several mass shootings since Sandy Hook, among them the worst in US history. And Kinder eggs are still prohibited.