Courtesy of Moms Demand Action. This is an older meme, so the amounts of likes and shares can’t be known exactly, but it’s likely in the hundreds of thousands for each. It shows a Kinder Surprise Egg next to a rifle, and points out the apparent hypocrisy, that we ban certain candy to protect children, but not guns. The argument even got picked up on more trusted media outlets, including Piers Morgan on CNN. The meme itself is not false, as Kinder Eggs are indeed banned in the US while “assault weapons” are not, but the argument it puts forth is a logical fallacy, which we’ll see shortly.
The War on Kinder Eggs
For those who haven’t had the pleasure of enjoying a Kinder Surprise Egg, it’s essentially a chocolate egg with a small toy inside. This toy is encased in a plastic shell, and when pried open it contains instructions (slightly less difficult than Ikea’s furniture) to construct whatever the collector item is. There are countless different toys inside, and ironically it’s enjoyed a cult-type following among adults, as some have extensive collections.
Kinder Eggs are legal in many countries, including Canada and much of Europe, but are technically illegal in the US. Why? Under the 1938 Federal Food Drug and Cosmetic Act, section 342 (d) deems candy “adulterated” if it:
has partially or completely imbedded therein any nonnutritive object, except that this subparagraph shall not apply in the case of any nonnutritive object if, in the judgment of the Secretary as provided by regulations, such object is of practical functional value to the confectionery product and would not render the product injurious or hazardous to health
While we would all prefer not to find a chunk of lead embedded in our chocolate, this law basically means the FDA can ban any candy that has toys inside it, unless they make an exemption for it. No such exemption is made, and in 2012, the FDA confirmed the war on Kinder Eggs with this judgement:
“The embedded non-nutritive objects in these confectionery products may pose a public health risk as the consumer may unknowingly choke on the object.”
Due to the small size of the toy inside, the US government deems it a choking hazard, and thus bans it. While it’s true that some of the toys could be a choking hazard, they are not meant for small children under 3. They are intended for older children and adult “children”.
If you’ve ever opened a Kinder Egg, you quickly realize that the plastic canister (which is too large to fit in a small child’s mouth) is annoyingly hard to open, even for adults. Most likely, it couldn’t be opened by a small child. Once you pry it open, it usually takes some brain power and dexterity to assemble the small toy, making it unsuitable for any small children. The regulations banning small toys are generally meant for those targeted to children 3 and under, as those are the ones who tend to put random objects into their mouths. Not only are Kinder Eggs not meant for this age, they clearly state on the packaging that it’s a danger to small children, just in case the parents aren’t familiar. Yet, the government disagrees, so no Kinder Eggs for anyone.
While Kinder Eggs are illegal, they aren’t enforced particularly harshly, compared to most banned items like drugs or weaponry. US Customs does end up confiscating roughly 25,000 eggs a year at border checkpoints, and there’s technically a $2,500 fine per egg, but that seems to be seldom enforced. Usually, the agent will just confiscate the candy and not proceed with further enforcement action, kind of like bringing a bottle of water through airline security. While the war on Kinder Eggs is real, it’s nothing like the war on drugs, or other outlawed items. Still, they are banned, and unavailable at US retailers, which means millions who would probably like to purchase them can’t, at least without pursuing black markets and criminal activity.
How much does this ban protect US children? It’s hard to get reliable data, but according to Wikipedia, there have been between 2 and 3 child deaths ever from Kinder Eggs in Europe. To put this in perspective, about 400 children in the US drown in swimming pools each year. This means that even where they’re legal, they pose virtually no danger to small children.
Given this background, we can now see that this meme uses the fallacy of false equivalence (or even the red herring fallacy). It’s arguing that because we outlaw Kinder Eggs in order to protect children, we should also ban “assault weapons” to do the same. However, since outlawing Kinder Eggs doesn’t protect our children, the argument doesn’t follow, and is fallacious. Any reasonable person should see that the Kinder ban is ridiculous, unnecessary, and should be lifted.
Regardless of one’s views on gun control, this meme does nothing to advance an argument. All that needs to be done is for the other side to point out that they disagree with the Kinder Egg ban. If the other side points out that this is just another example of government overreach, then the argument disappears, and one is left only with “we should ban assault weapons”. If anything, the meme only proves that the government makes stupid laws that need to be repealed. In other words, it does nothing to further the gun control argument, and brings us right back to the beginning. This can be clearly seen when Piers Morgan attempts this fallacious reasoning and his guest shoots it down.