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IKEA Latest Company Affected in Europe's Horse-Meat Scandal

Source: WSJ

Posted on 25 Feb 2013 by Neilson

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IKEAIKEA on Monday became the latest company to be drawn into Europe's snowballing horse-meat scandal, as the Swedish furniture giant said it has recalled a batch of meatballs that had been distributed to 13 European countries.

The move comes after Czech food inspectors found traces of horse meat in IKEA's meatballs. The company also said it is withdrawing meatball products from sale in Sweden.

IKEA spokeswoman Ylva Magnusson said the affected batch of frozen meatballs, marketed as Koettbullar, had been pulled from all countries to which they were distributed: the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, France, the U.K., Portugal, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Greece, Cyprus and Ireland.

"As soon as we received information from the Czech authorities, we stopped sales of that particular production batch," she said.

To alleviate concerns in its domestic market, another IKEA spokeswoman, Sara Paulsson, said the company had stopped all sales of both frozen and restaurant meatballs throughout Sweden, even though the batch in question hadn't been distributed there.

While known for its flat-pack furniture and relatively cheap home products, IKEA generated €1.3 billion ($1.72 billion) in food revenue in 2012, representing 5% of its total sales. IKEA stores typically contain a cafeteria serving fresh food and a grocery section selling food products.

Inspectors working for Czech food regulator SVS discovered the tainted products at the IKEA store in the city of Brno, 200 kilometers east of Prague. IKEA operates four stores in total in the Czech Republic, including two in the country's capital. SVS has been checking frozen meat products in the wake of recent scandals across Europe showing that some mostly beef food products contained horse meat.

Besides IKEA, the Czech inspectors have also found horse-meat samples in patties imported from Poland and marketed as pure beef pre-fried burgers, as well as other frozen precooked meals such as beef lasagna.

IKEA is currently testing samples from the affected batch to determine how much horse meat was in them. If the figure is less than 1%, the products would typically be considered to have been contaminated during the handling process rather than mixed with horse meat, and within the error margin. IKEA said the test results are expected later this week.

IKEA began testing of all its meat products about two weeks ago when the horse-meat scandal erupted. Tests on 12 samples of meatballs from different production batches had showed no traces of horse meat, Ms. Magnusson said.

The affected meatballs, labeled as containing beef and pork, were made by a single Swedish supplier, Familjen Dafgård, and sold in the grocery section of IKEA's stores rather than in the cafeterias, Ms. Magnusson said.

Familjen Dafgård said in a statement that it is investigating the situation and expects to receive test results from its own DNA analysis in the coming days.

The scandal over horse meat disguised as more expensive beef began in Ireland last month, when authorities found horse meat in some products labeled as beef burgers sold in some supermarkets, but it has since swept across Europe. Supermarkets in the U.K., France, Germany and Switzerland have withdrawn products including frozen lasagnas, burgers and spaghetti Bolognese meals from their shelves.

Some countries are holding emergency meetings with the meat industry to ascertain how the mislabeled products made it to store shelves. The furor has raised concerns about the complex network of slaughterhouses and suppliers that handle food on its way to the dinner table and the controls governing food transported across borders.