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Horse meat found in Ikea's Swedish meatballs

Furniture retailer Ikea says it has halted all sales of meatballs in Sweden after Czech authorities detected horsemeat in frozen meatballs that were labeled as beef and pork.
AP Photo/Johannes Cleris

Last Updated 11:56 a.m. ET

STOCKHOLM 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 packs of frozen meatballs made in Sweden and shipped to the Czech Republic for sale in Ikea stores there. A total of 1,675 pounds of the meatballs were stopped from reaching the shelves.

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, she added.

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."

The halt in sales applies to all European countries (except for Norway, Russia and a limited number of products in Switzerland and Poland), the company said in a statement.

"We take seriously the test result from the Czech Republic authorities, indicating presence of horse meat in one batch of our meatballs," said Anders Lennartsson of IKEA Food Services AB.

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

Ikea's stores feature restaurants and also sell typical Swedish food, including the so-called Kottbullar meatballs.

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. The Agriculture Ministry said it was a case of fraudulent labeling but represented no health threat.

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.