Image: Counterfeit chocolates
Michel Euler  /  AP
An unidentified customs officer shows off some of the seized counterfeit chocolates in Orly, France, on Tuesday.
updated 12/23/2008 12:01:05 PM ET 2008-12-23T17:01:05

Ten tons of chocolate bonbons could stuff a lot of stockings this holiday season — but instead they will be under the lock and key of French customs agents.

The French customs service announced Tuesday that officers at the giant Rungis international market outside Paris seized nearly 33,000 boxes of gold-foil-wrapped morsels, on suspicion that they were counterfeit Ferrero Rochers, a popular Italian chocolate brand.

Lab tests and an examination by Ferrero itself found that the seized candies were harmless but low-quality copies. They arrived in France by refrigerated truck from Turkey and were seized in late November.

Legal proceedings are under way between Ferrero and the chocolates' importer, said Sophie Hocquerelle, a spokeswoman for the French customs office.

"It was the first time we had ever seized chocolates," Hocquerelle said — and what a seizure: 10 tons of coconut-filled dark chocolates and milk chocolate balls worth an estimated $312,000.

The customs office said the fake Ferreros confirmed a trend seen in recent years of counterfeiters moving on from luxury goods like leather handbags and expensive perfumes to more day-to-day consumer goods like food, medicine and car parts.

By last month French customs agents had seized 5.4 million counterfeit items this year, up from 4.6 million in all of 2007.

As for those chocolates — they're to be destroyed.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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