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After meatballs, Ikea withdraws sausages

Wednesday - 2/27/2013, 7:28pm  ET

KARL RITTER
Associated Press

STOCKHOLM (AP) -- After withdrawing meatballs from stores across Europe, home furnishings company Ikea said Wednesday its own tests confirmed "a few indications of horse meat" and that it would also remove wiener sausages made by the same supplier.

Meanwhile, Poland acknowledged for the first time that it is a source of horse meat that has fraudulently ended up in processed meat products sold as beef -- an admission that came as the country said it found traces of horse DNA in samples from three meat processors.

Ikea said it would withdraw the sausages from stores in France, Britain, Spain, Ireland and Portugal. Other stores were getting sausages from other suppliers, company spokeswoman Ylva Magnusson said.

No horse meat had been found in the wieners, which are made of ground pork and beef, but they were removed anyway because they came from the same supplier as the meatballs, Magnusson said.

The supplier, Gunnar Dafgard AB, didn't return calls seeking comment.

The move comes two days after Czech food inspectors found traces of horse meat in Ikea's Swedish-made meatballs, prompting the company to pull them from store shelves in 21 European countries and in Hong Kong, Thailand and the Dominican Republic.

Stores in other countries, including the U.S. and Canada, were not affected because they received meatballs from a different supplier.

Ikea said results from its own tests confirmed some meatballs didn't just contain beef and pork, despite what their labeling said.

"Based on some hundred test results that we have received so far, there are a few indications of horse meat," Magnusson said. "Together with the Swedish supplier in question we have decided to withdraw from sales also the wiener sausages ... from that supplier."

Horse meat has recently been found mixed into beef dishes sold across Europe, including in frozen supermarket meals. It has also been found in meals served at restaurants, schools and hospitals. Authorities say the scandal is a case of fraudulent labeling but does not pose a health risk.

The French wholesaler at the epicenter of the scandal, Spanghero, announced Wednesday that it had filed for bankruptcy protection. The company denies that it intentionally mislabeled and sold horse meat as beef, but the French government has said it should have known and temporarily forced it to shut down all production. Spanghero has slowly started to package meats again, but is not selling any to other manufacturers.

The company, which employs about 300 people, said it hoped the court filing would save its business and those jobs.

Meanwhile, food safety authorities across Europe continued to clamp down on mislabeled meat.

Latvia's food safety agency said that traces of horse meat were found in products labeled as beef by a local meatpacker, Forevers.

The agency said 416 horses were slaughtered last year in Latvia, out of which 203 were eventually delivered to Forevers from the same Latvia-based slaughterhouse, Aibi. All the horse meat was labeled as beef in the invoices, the agency said. It wasn't immediately clear if any of the meat was exported.

Also Wednesday, Russia's state sanitary watchdog said it detected horse meat in sausages imported from Austria. The agency's spokesman, Alexei Alexeyenko, said in a statement carried by the ITAR-Tass news agency that the sausages were stated to only contain beef.

And in Greece, authorities said they seized a ton of frozen meat from Romania that had been labeled as beef, after testing located traces of horse DNA -- the first such discovery in the country.

Poland was one of the first countries suspected in the European-wide horse meat scandal, but for weeks had failed to turn up any of its own evidence to support that allegation.

But late Wednesday, the country's General Veterinary Inspectorate said it had found traces of horse DNA from samples from three meat processors. It said it found the DNA in three samples out of 121 tested. The inspectorate said in a statement that it still needs to test 80 more samples.

Portuguese authorities said late Tuesday they had seized 79 metric tons (87 U.S. tons) of beef products containing traces of horse meat in recent days and opened criminal proceedings against five local companies. Portugal's Food Safety Agency said it made the seizures at companies that process, package and distribute meat to large retail outlets.

The agency said in a statement on its website that it also took almost 19,000 pre-packed products from Portuguese stores after detecting horse meat in them. They included lasagnas, hamburgers and meatballs.

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Associated Press writers Barry Hatton in Lisbon, Sarah DiLorenzo in Paris, Gary Peach in Riga, Latvia, Nicholas Paphitis in Athens, Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow and Vanessa Gera in Warsaw, Poland contributed to this report.


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