Sweet seduction?

German politicians have been accused of robbing youngsters of one of the small joys of childhood after announcing plans to ban the Kinder Surprise chocolate eggs, on the grounds that they are a safety hazard.

The kinder commission (children’s committee) of the German Parliament, which is responsible for introducing legislation, fears children might mistake the toys contained in the eggs for food and swallow them. Critics have also said that mixing toys and food is not helpful when trying to teach children the value of good nutrition.

“Children can’t differentiate between toys and nutritional items,” said Miriam Gruss, a member of the commission. “It is a sad fact, but that means that Kinder Surprise eggs have to go.” Cornflakes and other products that contain toys are also on the blacklist.

The company Ferrero, which produces Kinder Surprise eggs for Germany, responded angrily to the announcement, saying its product had undergone many safety tests since first coming on to the German market in 1974. “There is absolutely no evidence that the Kinder Surprise eggs as a combination of toy and foodstuff are dangerous,” said Elise Glaab, the company’s spokesperson. “The Kinder Surprise toy is separated from the chocolate by a plastic capsule.”

Torben Erbrath, spokesman for the Federal Association for the German Confectionery Industry, said: “We have seen no evidence that the eggs are dangerous.” The commission did not provide any statistics to back up safety fears.

The egg — known in Germany as Uberraschungs Ei or U-Ei — contains a yellow capsule housing a small toy and is loved by children across Europe, but nowhere more so than in Germany.

Bild newspaper said the ruling would “come as a shock to millions of children” and recently collectors of the Kinder Surprise toys found in the eggs rallied on websites. On the most prominent Kinder Surprise collectors’ forum, Eierlei.de, bloggers accused the government of “beheading” their favourite sweet.

“Sonnenschein” accused the parliament of “stealing our last little joy — with no reasonable explanation”.

One respondent said it was hard to consider the capsules dangerous because they were “as much of a mouthful” as the lengthy name by which the confectionary trade refers to the egg: Schockoladespielzeugkombinationseier (chocolate toy combination eggs).

On the website of the newspaper Die Welt, 97% of respondents to the question: “Do you think the combination of sweets and food is dangerous?” replied that it was “nonsense”.

The same commission meeting proposed a law requiring the paper in school books to be lighter to reduce the health risk of heavy schoolbags. —

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