Swedish furniture giant IKEA is the latest to report traces of horse meat in frozen meatballs served at its stores in Czech Republic.
The Czech Republic Veterinary Administration detected horse meat in 1-kilogram (2.2 pound) packets of frozen meatballs produced in Sweden and exported to the Czech Republic for sale in IKEA stores.
The inspectors stopped 760 kilograms (1,675 pounds) of such meatballs from reaching the shelves. The recent and massive Horse-meat scandal is difficult to tackle because it involves a complex supply chain.
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IKEA’s Swedish branch said on its Facebook page that it will not serve any meatballs in the company’s Swedish stores due to worries among consumers.
IKEA spokesperson Ylva Magnusson said that frozen meatballs from the same batch were shipped to Portugal, Britain, France, Hungary, Belgium, Spain, Italy, Greece, Cyprus, Ireland and Slovakia. Meatballs in all those countries have been taken off the shelves. Magnusson said that other shipments, including to the United States, were unaffected.
The equine DNA was first detected about a month ago in Ireland in beef patties that were to be exported to the United Kingdom. Last week, Nestle SA (VTX:NESN) (ETR:NESR) was forced to recall its pasta meals from supermarkets in Spain, the United Kingdom and Italy. The Burger King Worldwide Inc (NYSE:BKW) had to drop a supplier in the United Kingdom. A few days ago, horse meat was detected on pizza in Denmark.
EU Agriculture ministers of the member states are meeting today in Brussels to address the crisis. The German agriculture minister Ilse Aigner is pressing for more stringent rules for food ingredient labeling. The British environment minister Owen Paterson demand a “concrete, coordinated action right across Europe.”
The blue-and-yellow IKEA stores have a restaurant that serves Swedish food, including meatballs and are served with gravy, lingonberry jam and boiled or mashed potatoes.
The Meatballs shipped to IKEA were supplied by a family-owned frozen food company Gunnar Dafgard AB based in southwestern Sweden. Swedish authorities haven’t taken any action as they are waiting for the Czech inspectors to detect the quantity of horse-meat.
Processed food products have low margins, and consumers want access to meat at a good price. As a result, producers look for the cheapest suppliers, who themselves subcontract the production to other companies. This is the problem that makes it hard to monitor the link in the supply chain.
To keep the prices lower and maintain their margins, some companies started mixing horse meat with beef to increase its volume.
The British supermarket chain Iceland’s CEO Malcolm Walker told BBC that they didn’t routinely test the genus of its meat. “Did we test for horse? No, but we didn’t test for cat or dog either,” he said. “There might be dog and cat,” said Walker.