Posts falsely claim Kinder uses insects in chocolate

Social media posts highlighting the ingredients listed on a bag of Schoko-Bons say the candy contains insects. This is false; the product was formerly coated with shellac, an insect by-product that has been tested and approved for use as a confectioner's glaze -- but the Italian company Ferrero said it has phased out the additive in its Kinder-brand chocolates.

"The Kinder brand, which is a German company, owner of the Schokobons recently stated in a declaration that it uses insects (Schellack) as an ingredient in this popular product for kids," says an April 7, 2024 Facebook post. "This is bad news for those of us who spent time in Germany."

Screenshot of a Facebook post taken April 24, 2024

Similar posts appear elsewhere on Facebook, TikTok, X -- including in Spanish and French.

They echo claims AFP has previously debunked about insects in Nestlé's KitKat chocolate. Misinformation surrounding the consumption of insects has become increasingly widespread as Western governments begin approving new ingredients in food products.

Shellac is a glazing agent commonly used to give chocolate and other confections a glossy finish. US and European regulatory authorities consider it safe for consumption (archived here and here).

While the ingredient is a long-used insect by-product, it does not contain bugs -- and Kinder chocolates no longer use the additive.

What is shellac?

Shellac is made from the "resinous secretion" of an insect that is "bleached and purified" to create a lacquer, the European Food Safety Authority told AFP on April 18.

David Giron, an insect researcher at the French National Centre for Scientific Research (archived here), said April 18 that the additive is an insect "by-product" that has been used "since ancient times." He likened it to snail slime or cow milk.

Shellac is found in many food products, cosmetics and even musical instruments (archived here, here and here).

Giron said the insect itself is not consumed, adding that even if traces of the bug made it through food processing, they would be "insignificant" compared to the insects unwittingly consumed in fruits and vegetables.

Old video, new recipe

A reverse image search reveals the clip has circulated on TikTok since at least March 2023. It shows old Schoko-Bons created with a recipe that has since changed.

"Currently, we do not use shellac in Ferrero products around the world, with the sole exception of a few former Nestlé brands that have been acquired in the United States," a company spokesperson told AFP on April 19.

The spokesperson said Ferrero eliminated shellac "gradually over the last year," without addressing if the move was linked to concerns raised online.

Several stores AFP visited in Paris carried Schoko-Bons that no longer listed shellac as an ingredient.

Schoko-Bons are not sold in US stores, and Kinder's website does not list shellac as an ingredient for any of the products sold in the United States. However, the UK website says the coating prevents melting and makes the chocolate shinier (archived here and here).

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