Americans smuggle Fruit Roll-Ups into Israel because of a TikTok trend

You might usually think of Fruit Roll-Ups, those leathery, jammy snacks, as something you might find in a school lunch box. But now they’re being discovered in a more unexpected spot: in the luggage and boxes of American smugglers reportedly attempting to sneak tens of thousands of them into Israel.

Two American couples this month were found trying to move hundreds of pounds of the sugary treats into the country, and officials said they had confiscated 661 pounds of them in a weekaccording to a report in the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. (Because each roll-up weighs 0.5 ounces, it would take more than 21,000 to total that weight.) One couple arrived on May 1 at Ben Gurion International Airport with multiple suitcases full of them, according to news reports.

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In a video posted by the Israeli news site Mako, a customs official appears to sift through at least three suitcaseseach containing hundreds of Fruit Roll-Ups, while a man off-screen attempts to explain that he brought them for his family.

Officials this month also found 10 mail shipments containing nearly 350 pounds of the coveted fruit confections being sent from the United States to different addresses in Israel, the news site Ynet reported. The country’s Tax Authority deemed those quantities to be illegal “commercial shipments” that are subject to taxes and other fees as well as approval by health officials. That report also claimed that two other individuals flying into Israel had been caught moving large amounts of the snack.

So how did fruit leather become some of the world’s oddest contraband? It all started as a viral trend on TikTok, where videos featuring people wrapping the roll-ups around ice cream have been widely circulated. Some users fashion them into small burrito-like wraps, while others crimp them into more dumpling-esque shapes. The appeal seems to come from the contrast in texture between the soft interior and the leather, which hardens when in contact with the ice cream, creating a crisp exterior. One of the originators of the trend was TikToker Golnar Ghavami, who said in this video from February — which has gotten more than 14 million views — that she buys the fruit-leather component in bulk on Amazon.

High demand apparently fueled by the viral snack has caused the price of Fruit Roll-Ups to soar in Israel. But they remain widely available — and relatively cheap — in the United States, thus tempting some would-be entrepreneurs to stockpile here and transport them overseas where they could fetch a sweet profit. U.S. customers can buy a 72-count box for $27, while Israeli fans are paying as much as $6 for a single roll-up from “enterprising merchants,” according to the Times of Israel.

The craze and the subsequent black market it spawned prompted the country’s Health Ministry to issue a warning about potential dangers. “Glucose, corn syrup and dry corn syrup are all sugar — a lot of different types of sugar,” the officials’ statement read, noting that sugar consumption can lead to weight gain, cardiovascular diseases, Type 2 diabetes and other diseases.

The ministry helpfully offered link to a recipe for a cucumber roll as a healthy alternative, though the vegetable snack might not hit quite the same notes as the sweeter one.

And it might have added another caveat for people indulging in the TikTok trend: After seeing some people attempt to eat the wrapper the fruit treats come in, the official Fruit Roll-Ups TikTok account took the step of posting a video warning people not to, you know, eat the plastic.

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