Nestle chocolate balls lose Disney magic

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The confectionery giant Nestle USA has bowed to public opinion and has agreed to stop selling chocolate sweets with Disney toys hidden inside, a sweet which is still sold in Britain.

The company responded to growing criticism by announcing that it would voluntarily stop marketing the sweets Nestle Magic chocolate balls although the Food and Drink Administration had not decided whether to force Nestle to pull the sweets off the market.

For 60 years the United States has banned sweets where toys or trinkets are imbedded in them. In this country sweets containing toys are marked with a warning, but the European Commission is expected to lay down new standards for them.

Nestle has not recalled the chocolates, but anyone who wishes to return them to the store where they were purchased will be given a full refund, said Laurie MacDonald, a spokeswoman for the confectionery giant.

"Some of the toys barely, and I mean by a fraction of a little toe, pass the standard choke test," said Richard Blumenthal, the Attorney-General for Connecticut, who led several state attorneys general in denouncing the chocolates.

"No major corporation ought to be embedding toys in candy, not to mention this kind of tiny character."

The company itself claims the toys are safe and the Consumer Product Safety Commission agreed that the Disney movie figures - inside a ball covered in Nestle Magic chocolate - were too big to choke a child. And the Food and Drug Administration confirmed on Wednesday that it knew of no injuries associated with Nestle Magic.

NestleMagic first went on sale in the US in July - even though the FDA warned Nestle at the time that selling the chocolates violated a federal law that prohibits non-nutrition items from being embedded in food unless the agency issues an exemption.

The FDA did not grant that exception to Nestle, but neither did it immediately take action against the company because its own preliminary review concluded the candies did not pose an imminent hazard.

A spokeswoman for the Child Accident Prevention Trust welcomed Nestle's move in the US and called for further moves in Britain.

"This is something that needs to be looked at very carefully." she said.

-Glenda Cooper

Consumer Affairs Correspondent