In January 2011, Manitoba resident Lind Bird was stopped at the US border in northern Minnesota and selected for a random search of her vehicle. During the search, US border officials found and seized a small piece of contraband. Bird was unaware that the item was illegal to bring into the US, but she was informed that she could face a $300 fine if she was caught with it in the country.
Bird was allowed to continue her trip, but a few days later she received a seven-page letter from the US government asking her to formally authorize the destruction of the item that was seized or pay $250 for them to store the item if she wished to contest the seizure.
The item in question was a small chocolate egg with a toy inside, called a Kinder Surprise.
Understandably, Bird found the entire ordeal quite bizarre.
“It’s just a chocolate egg,” Bird said. “And they were making a big deal…It’s ridiculous. It’s so ridiculous.”
When she got the letter, she had trouble taking it seriously. “I thought it was a joke,” she said. “I had to read it twice. But they are serious.”
A similar incident took place in June 2012, when two Seattle men were driving back into the US after a visit to Vancouver. After border officials discovered six Kinder Surprise eggs in their car, the men were detained for two hours and told by a border guard that they could be fined $2,500 per egg.
“I thought [the American border guard] had done his search and hadn’t found anything, and he was joking with us,” said Chris Sweeney, one of the men detained.
“He wasn’t joking.”
“We really didn’t know what was going to happen,” Sweeney continued. “I didn’t know if maybe this was some really important thing that I just wasn’t aware of and they were going to actually give us the fine of $15,000.”
After waiting for 2 hours, the men were allowed to carry on with their trip and take the eggs with them.
“If it was so important that we be stopped and scolded and threatened with thousands of dollars in fines, you’d think it would at least be important enough for them to take [the Kinder eggs], but they didn’t,” Sweeney said.
“Keeping the border secure is obviously important,” he continued, “but somebody needs to take a common sense look at this rule and probably just get rid of it.”