Horse Meat Found in Ikea's Swedish Meatballs

A woman walks in front of an IKEA store in Berlin, Friday, Nov. 16, 2012.
Associated Press + More

By KARL RITTER, Associated Press

STOCKHOLM (AP) — Swedish furniture giant Ikea was drawn into Europe's widening food labeling scandal Monday as authorities said they had detected horse meat in frozen meatballs labeled as beef and pork and sold in 13 countries across the continent.

The Czech State Veterinary Administration said that horse meat was found in one-kilogram (2.2 pound) packs of frozen meatballs made in Sweden and shipped to the Czech Republic for sale in Ikea stores there. A total of 760 kilograms (1,675 pounds) of the meatballs were stopped from reaching the shelves.

[READ: Nestle Finds Horse Meat in Beef Pasta Meals]

Ikea spokeswoman Ylva Magnusson said meatballs from the same batch had gone out to Slovakia, Hungary, France, Britain, Portugal, the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Italy, Greece, Cyprus and Ireland. Magnusson said meatballs from that batch were taken off the shelves in Ikea stores in all those countries. Other shipments of meatballs were not affected, including to the U.S., even though they all come from the same Swedish supplier, Magnusson said.

"Our global recommendation is to not recall or stop selling meatballs," she said.

However, the company's Swedish branch announced on its Facebook page that it won't sell or serve any meatballs at its stores in Sweden out of concern for "potential worries among our customers."

[READ: FDA Announces New Rules to Strengthen Food Safety]

Magnusson said Ikea saw no reason to extend that guidance globally. She said Ikea was conducting its own tests of the affected batch "to validate" the Czech results. She also said that two weeks ago Ikea tested a range of frozen food products, including meatballs, and found no traces of horse meat.

"But, of course, we take the tests that Czech authorities have done very seriously," Magnusson said. "We don't tolerate any other ingredients than those on the label."

European authorities have said the horse meat found in lasagna and other prepared dishes is a case of fraudulent labeling but does not pose a health risk.

Ikea's trademark blue-and-yellow stores typically feature a restaurant that serves traditional Swedish food, including meatballs served with boiled or mashed potatoes, gravy and lingonberry jam. Meatballs — "Kottbullar" in Swedish — are also available in the frozen foods section.

[READ: Swedish Furniture Customizer Makes Ikea's Success Its Own]

Magnusson said all of the meatballs are supplied by Gunnar Dafgard AB, a family-owned frozen foods company in southwestern Sweden. Calls to the company were not immediately returned, but it posted a brief statement on its website saying "the batch in question has been blocked and we are investigating the situation."

Sweden's food safety authority said it wasn't taking any action but was waiting for Czech authorities to specify the quantity of horsemeat detected.

"If it's less than 1 percent it could mean that they handled horsemeat at the same facility. If it's more, we assess that it's been mixed into the product," said Karin Cerenius of Sweden's National Food Agency.

European Union officials were meeting Monday to discuss tougher food labeling rules after the discovery of horse meat in a range of frozen supermarket meals such as burgers and lasagna that were supposed to contain beef or pork.

The Czech authority also announced Monday that it found horse meat in beef burgers imported from Poland during random tests of food products.

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 that after carrying out tests on meat supplied to its factories in Spain it was withdrawing six "La Cocinera" products and one "Buitoni" product from store shelves.

It said it was taking the action after the traces of horse meat were found in beef bought from a supplier in central Spain. Nestle said it was taking legal action against the company, adding that the products would be replaced by ones with 100 percent beef.