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Hard to swallow: Horse meat found in IKEA meatballs!

  • 'IKEA Monkey' is no longer the strangest thing found at IKEA
  • Frozen meatballs pulled from shelves in 14 European nations
  • Horse meat showing up in food products across Europe
Hard to swallow: Horse meat found in IKEA meatballs!

There was a time, for instance yesterday, when the biggest complaints about IKEA usually involved hard-to-assemble furniture or hard-to-pronounce product names, like a "fyrkantig" and the "ödmjuk."

But today, things are different. Today we know about IKEA's häst köttbullar -- which isn't so much hard to pronounce as it is to swallow.

It means "horse meatballs" in Swedish, and that's what the home furnishing retailer says it might have unwittingly been serving customers in the Czech Republic and possibly other European nations.

The meatballs were pulled from shelves in the Czech Republic after food inspectors detected horse DNA on samples from 2.2-pound bags of frozen meatballs. They have also been pulled in 13 other European nations, including Britain and Sweden, which received deliveries from the same supplier.

"Today we have been informed that our meatballs may contain traces of horse meat from a test that is done in the Czech Republic. Our own checks have shown no traces of horse meat," the company said in a statement.

The Swedish meatballs are one of IKEA's signature items and are labeled as being made from beef and pork. The ones which turned up traces of horse meat came from the frozen packages that are sold in the store's grocery, not the meatballs served at their in-store cafeteria, according to the Wall Street Journal. The Journal reports IKEA is currently testing additional samples from the same batch to determine whether the amount of horse meat in the meatballs is above 1%, which could just be attributed to contamination during handling.

Regardless of how those tests turn out, Europe clearly has a major horse meat problem going on. Ever since an Irish factory reported finding horse meat last month in beef patties it had been shipping to the United Kingdom, multiple food products labeled as 100% beef and sold across the continent have been found to contain horse meat. Known cases include the following:

January 16: Burgers sold in Ireland and Britain are found to contain horse meat. While usually found in very low levels, one burger being sold at a major British retailer was found to be 29% horse meat.

February 8: Frozen lasagna from Swedish food company Findus is removed from shelves across Europe after testing for horse meat. The origins of the meat and how it came to be mislabeled remain unclear, greatly owed to the complicated path European meat takes from farm to shelf, as reported here by USA Today.

February 15: 47 schools in northern England stop serving a beef dish after it was found to contain horse meat, according to the Lancashire City Council.

February 20: Nestle stops selling two Buitoni pasta products in Italy and Spain and a frozen pasta meal in France after tests for horse meat show a presence above the 1% threshold. A spokesman has assured American consumers that beef sourced to Europe is not imported to the United States.

February 22: Frozen foods company Birds Eye pulls its frozen beef products in the UK, Ireland and Belgium after traces of horse DNA are found during testing of its frozen lasagna. The company says it is a "precautionary" move.

February 25: IKEA announces horse meat has been detected in packages of its frozen Swedish meatballs sold in the Czech Republic.

Members of the European Union met on Monday to discuss the growing crisis, with a focus on mandating country-of-origin labeling for all processed meat and many beef products.

Follow Jonathan Anker on Twitter @JonFromHLN

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