STOCKHOLM (AP)—Swedish furniture giant Ikea became entangled in Europe's widening meat scandal Monday, and was forced to withdraw meatballs from stores across Europe amid suspicions that they contained horse meat.
Stores in the U.S. and Canada were not affected, Ikea said.
The company reacted after authorities in the Czech Republic said they had detected horse DNA when testing a 1-kilogram (2.2-pound) pack of frozen meatballs. The packages labeled the meat as beef and pork.
Meatballs from the same batch had been sent from a Swedish supplier to 12 other European countries—Slovakia, Hungary, France, Britain, Portugal, the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Italy, Greece, Cyprus and Ireland—and would be pulled off the shelves in all of them.
Later Monday, the company expanded the withdrawals to stores in 21 countries that were getting meatballs from the same Swedish supplier.
Ikea spokeswoman Ylva Magnusson said that included most European countries, but not Russia and Norway, which use local suppliers. Stores in Poland and Switzerland use both local suppliers and the Swedish one, but would now only use locally produced meatballs, she said.
"This is an extraordinary effort to ensure that no one is worried," Magnusson said.
She added that two weeks ago Ikea tested a range of frozen food products, including meatballs, and found no traces of horse meat. The company plans to conduct its own tests to "validate" the Czech results, she said.
Ikea is known for its assemble-it-yourself furniture but its trademark blue-and-yellow megastores also have cafeteria-style restaurants offering Swedish dishes such as meatballs served with boiled or mashed potatoes, gravy and lingonberry jam.
European Union officials met Monday to discuss tougher food labeling rules after the discovery of horse meat in a wide range of frozen supermarket meals that were supposed to contain beef or pork. So far those foods include meatballs, burgers, kebabs, lasagna, pizza, tortelloni, ravioli, empanadas and meat pies, among other items.
Authorities say the scandal is a case of fraudulent labeling, but does not pose a health risk.
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.
The Czech authority said a total of 760 kilograms (1,675 pounds) of the meatballs were stopped from reaching the shelves. It also said it found horse meat in beef burgers imported from Poland during random tests of food products
© 2016 Cox Media Group.
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