Whenever I go from Germany to the US, people ask me to pick up certain items and bring them with me. I’ve brought German beer and chocolate to the US. I’ve taken Abercrombie & Fitch sweatpants back to Germany. I try to fill the requests when I can, but on this trip, there’s one request that I had to refuse.
I was asked to bring Kinder Überraschung, also called Kinder Surprise Eggs. A Kinder Egg contains a layer of chocolate surrounding a layer of white chocolate, which contains a toy inside a small plastic chamber. The toys are often cross-marketed, so you might see a Barbie Kinder Egg one week, and a Star Wars Kinder Egg the next.
I had to say no, however, because they’re entirely illegal in the United States.
Kinder eggs have been illegal in the United States for 75 years, even though they’re only forty years old. (They were first made in Italy in 1973 as Kinder Sorpresa.) The fine for bringing in these black market chocolates can be as high as $2,500 per egg.
The reason for this illegality is the 1938 Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, which says that food sold in the United States cannot have an embedded non-food item. A sample alert that specifically covers the Kinder eggs says that “imbedded non-nutritive objects in these confectionary products may pose a public health risk as the consumer may unknowingly choke on the object.”
I’ve already misplaced the report which sourced this next detail, but United States Customs and Border Protection said that in 2011, they seized more than 60,000 Kinder Eggs from travelers’ baggage and from international mail shipments. That’s an awful lot of hot chocolate.
The long-standing illegality of Kinder Eggs has actually prompted a new product in the United States. The Choco-Treasure is almost exactly the same as a Kinder Egg, but the Choco-Treasure gets around the law by having a plastic seam visible on the egg. Since the non-food portions are not completely embedded in the chocolate, the new eggs aren’t illegal in the US. I haven’t tried a Choco-Treasure egg, but I suspect that comparing Choco-Treasure to Kinder Überraschung is a lot like comparing Mr. Pibb to Doctor Pepper- one is just a cheap imitation of the other.