IKEA has been forced to halt the sale of a batch of its popular meatballs after horsemeat was found in the product.
Traces of horse were found in the meal during tests by a Czech regulator, and the furniture giant confirmed yesterday that meatballs from the same batch had been on sale in shops in Britain.
Horse was originally discovered in one-kilo packs of frozen meatballs made in Sweden and shipped to the Czech Republic for sale in stores there.
Ikea said meatballs from that batch had also been shipped to Britain, Slovakia, Hungary, France, Portugal, the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Italy, Greece, Cyprus and Ireland.
Spokeswoman Ylva Magnusson said that the company’s own checks had not shown any traces of horse, but it had decided to withdraw the product in Sweden from sale out of concern for “potential worries among our customers”. The move does not affect meatballs served in Ikea restaurants in the UK.
Ikea says it has no reason to extend that guidance globally, and is conducting its own tests on the affected batch “to validate” the Czech results, adding: “Our global recommendation is to not recall or stop selling meatballs.”
Ms Magnusson said no other shipments of meatballs had been affected, despite all coming from the same Swedish supplier, Gunnar Dafgard. “We take the tests that the Czech authorities have done very seriously,” Ms Magnusson said. “We don’t tolerate any other ingredients than those on the label.”
The company said the temporary ban on meatball sales in parts of Europe was an “extra-precautionary measure”, and it expects test results at the end of the week to confirm that there are “no indications of horsemeat in the meatballs”. Anders Lennartsson, of Ikea food services, added: “The trust of our customers is of utmost importance which is why the concerned production batch of meatballs was immediately withdrawn.”
The meatballs containing horse DNA labelled as beef and pork were part of the “Kott-bullar” range. A total of 760 kilos (1,675lbs) of the meatballs have been prevented from being sold.
The latest revelation comes as Scottish ministers joined European Union colleagues in Brussels yesterday to debate tougher rules to regain consumer confidence.
Hot meatballs with cream sauce were still on the menu in the bistro cafe outlet at Ikea Edinburgh yesterday. However, a sign reading “Meatballs are currently unavailable” was displayed above a freezer of “Kott-bullar Med Potatismos” – 380g packets of frozen meatballs and mashed potato.
In a statement on its Facebook page, Ikea Edinburgh said: “The production batch of meatballs tested positive by the Czech Republic authorities for indications of traces of horsemeat has not been served at the Ikea
restaurants. The concerned production batch of meatballs was only sold in the Swedish food markets and they have been withdrawn as a precaution.
“Twelve different production batches of meatballs have been tested, none of those have showed indications of horsemeat. To validate the test results that we have done, we are now initiating further tests on the same production batch in which the Czech Republic authorities found indications of horsemeat. We expect test results in the coming days and will then be able to give more information.”
One of the customers at the Edinburgh branch yesterday reacted with concern to the news that the product has been withdrawn. Katie Denholm, a vet from Linlithgow, said: “I deal a lot with the food industry, and the UK has much stricter regulations than in Europe. If they don’t even know where the horsemeat has come from, how can you ensure those horses haven’t received drugs that are banned in the UK?”