STOCKHOLM – Swedish furniture giant Ikea became entangled in Europe’s widening meat scandal Monday, forced to withdraw meatballs from stores across Europe amid suspicions that they contained horse meat.
Stores in the U.S. and Canada were not affected, Ikea said.
The company reacted after authorities in the Czech Republic said they had detected horse DNA in tests of 2.2-pound packs of frozen meatballs that were labeled as beef and pork. The Czech State Veterinary Administration said it tested two batches of Ikea meatballs and one contained horse meat. It did not say how much.
Meatballs from the same batch had been sent from a Swedish supplier to 12 other European countries – Slovakia, Hungary, France, Britain, Portugal, the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Italy, Greece, Cyprus and Ireland – and would be pulled off the shelves in all of them, Ikea said.
Later Monday, the company expanded the withdrawals to stores in 21 European countries and in Hong Kong, Thailand and the Dominican Republic, all of which received meatballs from the same Swedish supplier.
Ikea spokeswoman Ylva Magnusson said that included most European countries, but not Russia and Norway, which use local suppliers. Stores in Poland and Switzerland use both local suppliers and the Swedish one, but would now only use locally produced meatballs, she said.
“This is an extraordinary effort to ensure that no one is worried,” Magnusson told the Associated Press.
She added that two weeks ago Ikea tested a range of frozen food products, including meatballs, and found no traces of horse meat. The company plans to conduct its own tests to “validate” the Czech results, she said.
Ikea’s North America branch said the U.S. stores get their meatballs from a U.S. supplier.
“Based on the results of our mapping, we can confirm that the contents of the meatballs follow the Ikea recipe and contain only beef and pork from animals raised in the U.S. and Canada,” Ikea North America spokeswoman Mona Astra Liss said.
Ikea is known for its assemble-it-yourself furniture but its trademark blue-and-yellow megastores also have cafeteria-style restaurants offering Swedish dishes such as meatballs served with boiled or mashed potatoes, gravy and lingonberry jam.
European Union officials met Monday to discuss tougher food-labeling rules after the discovery of horse meat in a wide range of frozen supermarket meals that were supposed to contain beef or pork. So far those foods include meatballs, burgers, kebabs, lasagna, pizza, tortelloni, ravioli, empanadas and meat pies, among other items.
Authorities say the scandal is a case of fraudulent labeling but does not pose a health risk.
Spanish authorities, meanwhile, announced that traces of horse meat were found in a beef cannelloni product by one of the brands of Nestle, a Switzerland-based food giant.
In a statement on its website, Nestle Spain said it was withdrawing six “La Cocinera” products and one “Buitoni” product from store shelves. It said it was taking the action after traces of horse meat were found in beef bought from a supplier in Spain and that it was taking legal action against the company.