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Hidden Object Puzzler

April 25, 2011

The French Cowboy used to think that to live in America must be to live at one’s freest. But this notion I’m beginning to question more and more. This piece of news might just be the last drop in the bucket for me to think that, maybe, I should stay on the good old continent rather than emigrate to the Land of the (formerly) Free:

I am looking this bright Easter morn at a Department of Homeland Security “Custody Receipt for Seized Property and Evidence”. Late last night, crossing the Quebec/Vermont border, my children 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. I 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 [sic!] 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.

[…]

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.

One conclusion I made after hearing about the Kinder eggs ban is that the US is on a slippery slope leading to some sort of totalitarian Nannyatorship. The nation that has its tradition in the venturing pioneer and the risk-taking entrepreneur, and that is known for its “the sky’s the limit” mentality is supposed to be in need of public protection from the threat of Kinder eggs? The good people who make the decisions at the Food and Drug Administration should take a step back and come to their senses. Though maybe such over-protective actions are the result of too much spare time at the administration and — also in the spirit of budget cuts — one should shorten the supply of workforce there to prevent such ridiculous outputs.

The other thing that comes to mind when hearing about the worries regarding a chocolate treat* is that maybe the people at the Consumer Product Safety Commission have never seen a live Kinder egg. The Kinder egg toy is inside a yellow plastic capsule, and the yellow plastic capsule — which is fairly large — is surrounded by a thin hull made of chocolate (the egg). When you bite into the chocolate hull you bite mostly into empty space because the walls are very thin and the egg is hollow. The yellow capsule inside bounces around in the chocolate egg when you shake it. It’s not as if you could be taken by surprise by its existence. And in order to get at the actual toy you need a pair of fairly strong hands because the capsule in which it is placed is not easy to break open. A child that is small enough to indistinguishably chew on a toy would be very unlikely to be strong enough to open the yellow capsule.

So, while the toy in and of itself may be a choking hazard — like buttons, paper clips, earrings, and M&Ms — it is certainly not integrated into the chocolate egg in a way that would get it into your mouth any easier than the dime left on the kitchen table.

And speaking of “confectionery products with a non-nutritive object imbedded in them”, the French Cowboy would like to tell you of the tradition of the galette des Rois — the kings’ cake. It’s a delicious cake that has a figurine baked into it. Whoever gets the slice of the cake that includes the figurine is crowned “King” for the day (usually he or she will receive a paper crown). Originally, it’s a celebration of the three kings’ visit to the newborn Jesus, and a wonderful thing to enjoy with family and friends. That figurine is hidden in the dough, you will often find it only when it’s already in your mouth. Talk about a choking hazard!

I wonder if a galette des Rois would be confiscated at the US border as well?

By the way, there is an initiative to fight for your right to Kinder egg.

* Did you notice how “treat” is just one letter away from “threat”? Aha!

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