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Customs is watching for Easter candy

I smuggled $100 worth of illegal goods across the Canadian border last week. To be fair, the illegal goods were chocolate Easter eggs and I didn’t know I was doing anything wrong. But after I got home, I found out I could have been fined thousands of dollars if I’d been caught.

You see, my 4-year-old daughter is obsessed with Kinder Surprise Eggs – these little chocolate shells the size of a regular egg with a tiny, mystery toy inside. She discovered them on YouTube, where there are thousands of videos showing children (and lots of adults, surprisingly) cracking open the shells on camera to reveal what’s inside. Don’t ask me, I don’t get the fascination, but apparently it’s a big thing because many, many, many of these videos have more than 150 million views.

Last Easter I searched all over for Kinder eggs and couldn’t find them anywhere. That’s when I found out you can’t get them in this country because they’re illegal. Apparently, the toy inside makes it a choking hazard. Not that kids would put a Kinder Egg anywhere near their mouths – the chocolate tastes like crayons and usually ends up ditched.

In 1997, a commercial shipment of Surprise eggs made it into the states by mistake. The Consumer Product Safety Commission, which regulates such things, put out an alert and recalled all 5,000 of them.

But the real problem is a provision in the Food and Drug Administration’s Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetics Act forbidding “non-nutritive objects” embedded inside confections. U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, enforcing laws on the FDA’s behalf, confiscated 13,758 of them last year.

I wholeheartedly believe we need consumer protections. If we didn’t have them, I’m certain there are people out there who would box up broken glass and call it breakfast cereal if they could make a buck at it. But can we please slap a warning label on these suckers and call it a day?

While we’re on the subject, do you know what’s really dangerous? Actual breakfast cereal. Apple Jacks have 13.7 grams of sugar per serving. The first ingredient is sugar, followed by three types of processed flour and corn syrup. There is also a tad of dried fruit in them so they can legally be called “Apple” Jacks, and we can all pretend they won’t someday give our kids diabetes. But I digress.

If you’re not up for the illegal trip to Walmart in Fort Erie, Ont., there are a couple of ways to approximate the Kinder experience at your house this Easter. You can buy them online, but that’s still illegal, and you’ll pay $6 per egg as opposed to $1.50 Canadian. So you’re left with:

• Yowie ($3.99 apiece). These Australian chocolates are bigger than the standard Kinder egg and shaped like a bigfoot-type creature. The patented, childproof capsule inside the chocolate allows it to skirt the FDA ban. You can get them at ITSUGAR in the Fashion Outlets of Niagara Falls.

• Choco Treasure ($1). The container inside the chocolate has a plastic ridge that separates the two halves, beating the ban by a technicality. The toys inside are CPSC-safe (read: boring), so you’ll probably hear cries of “It’s not the same!” (You were a kid, you know how it is.) But at least you can get it at Dollar Tree.

• DIY. Using a chocolate egg mold and melted chocolate, make your own. Bonus: You can make sure your kid doesn’t end up with any of the dreaded “duplicate” toys.