News Column

IKEA Halts Meatball Sales in 14 Countries Over Horse-meat Find

Feb. 25, 2013

Furniture retailer Ikea on Monday pulled some of its trademark Koettbullar meatballs off shelves in 14 countries, as it became the latest victim in the horse meat scandal that has gripped Europe for almost a month.

Spokeswoman Ylva Magnusson told dpa that one batch of frozen meatballs was questionable, after Czech authorities found horse DNA in the one-kilogramme packages made by Swedish food group Dafgard.

Ikea stores in Belgium, Britain, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, France, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain and Sweden were affected by the decision to preventively halt the sale of the meatball batch.

A test on the meatballs - which normally contain beef and pork - has been sent to a lab in Germany, with Magnusson saying that she hopes the result will be available this week.

Meatballs from other batches are "still on sale" by the retail giant, she noted.

Czech authorities on Monday also announced that they had found horse meat in beef burgers imported from Poland by another retail vendor.

According to EU databases, more than 15 European countries have found or have suspected that presumed beef products contain horse meat, in a scandal that has unsettled consumers and revealed complex and often opaque supply chains.

Monday's findings came as European agriculture ministers were set to discuss the problem at talks in Brussels, with Germany and Austria demanding that ready meals feature information on the origin of their meat ingredients.

The EU has already recommended that ready meals labelled as containing beef be tested for horse meat in all of the bloc's 27 member states, with results to be published in April.

"First of all, a product has to of course contain what it says on it. When it says beef, there has to also be beef inside," Austrian Agriculture Minister Nikolaus Berlakovich said. "But I want to take the next step - that it also is clear where this beef comes from."

"We want an origin label, also for processed products," German Agriculture Minister Ilse Aigner added. "It is a complex system, but it is important for the consumer to better recognize on which levels what was processed."

No decisions on the measure - described as a "European food passport" by Berlakovich - were expected on Monday, although Aigner said she hoped that its basic aspects would be clarified.

The European Commission, the EU's executive, plans to present a report on the origin labels in the autumn, according to the German minister, who said she would push for the report to be brought forward to the summer.

The ministers' meeting was taking place one day after another food scandal broke out in Germany, involving eggs that are suspected to have been wrongly labelled as organic.

An investigation into the matter has been underway since 2011, according to Aigner, who said it would be a "large-scale fraud" if the suspicions are confirmed.

Berlakovich said he could not say for sure that a similar problem does not exist in his country.

"In times like these, you cannot rule out anything," he noted. "But a tight system of controls should guarantee that something like this does not happen."

Source: Copyright 2013 dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH

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