Hazardous Egg Reappears on Store Shelves

Under the chocolate, plastic toy pieces dangerous to very young children.
Under the chocolate, plastic toy pieces dangerous to very young children. (By Julia Ewan -- The Washington Post)
By Caroline E. Mayer
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, April 14, 2006

The Consumer Product Safety Commission yesterday issued a safety alert, warning consumers about a candy egg that may be dangerous to children under 3 because it contains small plastic pieces that children might swallow.

The Kinder Surprise is a chocolate eggshell that contains a plastic capsule of small parts that assemble into a toy. Either individually or assembled, these plastic parts are so small that they can pose a serious choking or aspiration hazard to young children, the CPSC said.

The product, wrapped in orange and white foil, is popular abroad but has been banned in the United States since 1997. Even so, every Easter season, Kinder Surprise eggs appear on many store shelves.

This year, the product was spotted in the District at Rodman's Discount Food & Drugs, a discount drugstore turned emporium of international food and electronics. At the request of the CPSC, Rodman's pulled Kinder Surprise from its shelves yesterday. Each egg was selling for $2.29.

"Retailers who are unaware that the product has been banned for sale should remove it from store shelves, and parents should take them away from children," said CPSC spokeswoman Julie Vallese.

Kinder Surprise is made by the Italian candymaker Ferrero Group. Monika Forndran, general counsel for the company's American division, Ferrero USA, said Ferrero doesn't distribute Kinder Surprise in the United States. "If you found Kinder Surprise here, it would be an unauthorized product," Forndran said. "It is an unauthorized product and comes in illegally."

Consumers Union alerted CPSC that Kinder Surprise was being sold in the United States after senior counsel Janelle Mayo Duncan spotted it while shopping at Rodman's. When it comes to mixing toys with chocolate, "there is a long-standing concern that you are confusing a child and may be encouraging them to eat things related to their toys," Duncan said.

She noted that Food and Drug Administration rules bar candymakers from embedding "non-nutritive objects" in their products.

The FDA had no comment on Kinder Surprise, saying it was a CPSC issue. However, in a previous case involving a different chocolate-covered toy egg that contained larger toys that weren't deemed a choking hazard, the FDA approved the product because chocolate fell away from the plastic egg when the foil was unwrapped.

The product Duncan spotted in Rodman's was labeled in Polish, called Kinder Surprise on one side, "Kinder Nespodzianka" on the other. A small circle, less than three-eighths of an inch in diameter, contains the European warning that the product is not suitable for children under 3. The product also has a written warning in slightly larger print that the toy is not appropriate for children under 3 because the parts may be swallowed or block respiratory passages. But that warning is in Polish. There is another warning in other languages, including English, inside the plastic capsule.

Roy Rodman, president of Rodman's, said he has seen Kinder Surprise in other stores in the United States. "I thought the government was allowing them in and checking them," he said. "The minute they told me there was a problem, we pulled these things."

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