Easter Egg Hunt: The Search for Contraband Kinder Eggs
By Amy Zimmer
DNAinfo News Editor
UPPER EAST SIDE — Kinder Surprise eggs are wildly popular around the world. Kids and adults alike collect the small toys encased in the plastic capsules that are inside the thin, hollow, milk chocolate eggs.
But finding them in New York takes some serious Easter egg hunting.
That's because the candy eggs, made by Italian manufacturer Ferraro, are considered to be a choking hazard and are banned in the United States.
With the Easter candy season, the federal government recently reminded parents not to buy or consume the contraband treats. The U.S. Customs and Border Patrol said it discovered more than 25,000 of these banned chocolate eggs in 2009 and made more than 2,000 separate seizures of the candy.
However, there are still some Manhattan stores that sell the forbidden chocolates with the little toys — which usually require some assembly — hidden inside. They tend to pop up in international candy stores or gourmet grocers that import fancy foods.
"I had this one kid who bought 11 Kinder eggs in one day," said Jigs Patel, who recently opened the London Candy Co. on the Upper East Side.
Patel's shipment passed through customs legally, so he hadn't realized they were contraband, he told DNAinfo. "They were brought in from London through the correct channels and sold like hotcakes, but now that we've found out they are illegal we're not going to get any more in."
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration says Kinder eggs are illegal because "they are a confectionery product with a non-nutritive object embedded in it."
According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission many of the toys it tested were found to present a choking hazard for young children. (The egg's packaging says they are not suitable for children under 3.)
"We only sell them to grown-ups and we warn them of a possible choking hazard," said Jerry Cohen, owner of the famed Lower East Side institution, Economy Candy, where a huge display of Kinder eggs were on sale, three for $5.
Maria, who works the register at TriBeCa's Jin Market and declined to give her last name, said the eggs sold "like water."
"The kids love them. Sometimes the kids open it and they don't want the chocolate. They just want the toy and the parents end up eating the chocolate," she said.
She did not know the chocolate eggs were illegal, she told DNAinfo, and when some Kinder egg fans were informed of their status, they expressed shock.
"That's crazy," said fashion designer Althea Simons, 26, who recalled seeing her first Kinder egg when she lived in France. "The chocolate is delicious."
Lower East Sider Haruka Kuga, 24, was incredulous of the ban.
"I think that's kind of ridiculous," she said recalling how her childhood best friend's dad, an artist who often traveled internationally, would bring Kinder eggs home for them.
"As kids, nothing ever happened to us," she said. "The whole point was that we knew there was something inside that was exciting and fun. We knew it was there."