January 25, 2011
A cross-border kerfuffle
From the news in Canada...
A cross-border kerfuffle over a popular chocolate treat nearly cost a Winnipeg woman a $300 fine and saddled her with a bureaucratic headache.
Lind Bird was recently stopped at the U.S. border and selected for a random search of her vehicle. She was warned she could have faced a fine after the customs official found — and seized — her $2 Kinder Surprise egg as illegal contraband. Bird learned U.S. authorities have banned the candy because they come with a plastic toy inside that could, if eaten, choke a small child.
"It's just a chocolate egg," Bird said. "And they were making a big deal. They said 'if you were caught with this across the border you would get charged a $300 fine,'" she said.
"It's ridiculous. It's so ridiculous," she added.
The U.S. takes catching illegal Kinder candy seriously, judging by the number of them they've confiscated in the last year. Officials said they've seized more than 25,000 of the treats in 2,000 separate seizures.
"They have been determined to present … a choking hazard to young children," said Mike Milne, a spokesman for the U.S. department of customs and border protection. Milne said the U.S. Food and Drug Administration supports the Kinder Surprise ban.
As trivial as the border seizure may seem, Bird said the U.S. government has sent her a seven-page letter asking her to formally authorize the destruction of her seized Kinder egg.
"I thought it was a joke. I had to read it twice. But they are serious," she said.
The letter states if Bird wishes to contest the seizure, she'll have to pay $250 for it to be stored as the two sides wrangle over it.
Wow! Thankfully this didn't happen to me over the past weekend when I crossed the border in Vermont on my way to Maine to meet some friends for a scrap booking weekend. I got to the U.S. border stop, blasting the Oldies station, which was playing R.E.M. and David Bowie (since when is that Oldies?) and I got the golden ticket...the random border check and was asked to pull into the parking lot and go into the office...all while the U.S. border dude had my passport, which any traveler will concur, is un-nerving.
So I go in and am asked several questions and after I answered that I was not a diabetic and therefore they would not find random needles in my car, I was told to sit down that they needed to search my vehicle. After looking up and seeing a rather nice and large photo of Janet Napalatano and another of Barack Obama, I wanted to say "Oh for the love of...of.... something," but I noticed the border dude's gun and big ego and simply said "all righty then, I'll just have a seat." And they searched my car. And they didn't find anything of interest as I expected.
Coming back into Canada is usually more of an experience. Not because I'm not hiding printer cartridges or one or four bottles of wine or anything. This time though I was prepared. I had my receipt and was under the duty total and was ready to show it off and answer all of the questions with the confidence of an innocent tourist. I had a few items from Target and of course three, I mean one bottle of California wine. I like the over-priced European wine we get here in Quebec, but come on, sometimes a girl just wants a cheap bottle of California wine. For the first time in over two years the only question the Canadian guy asked me was where I lived and how long I have been out of the country. That's it.
"Don't you want to see my receipt?" I asked.
"No, have a nice day," he said.
And for once I was prepared.
I turned up the Oldies station again and listened to my favorite Fleetwood Mac song.