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Ikea supplier claims its meatballs are 'horse-free'

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Ikea supplier claims its meatballs are 'horse-free'
12:39 CET+01:00
Ikea's Sweden-based meatball supplier on Tuesday claimed its own tests failed to reveal any horsemeat in its Swedish meatballs as Ikea widened its meatball ban to 24 countries following reports the iconic food contained horsemeat.

"We've been duped, there is a criminal act behind this," Ulf Dafgård, head of Swedish food producer Gunnar Dafgård AB, told the Aftonbladet newspaper amid crisis talks at the company on Monday.

The company, one of Sweden's largest food producers and the primary Swedish meatball supplier to Ikea stores in Europe, has been testing all of its meat products after Czech food inspectors found traces of horsemeat in a shipment of the Dafgård-made meatballs.

On Tuesday, the company announced 320 tests conducted in the last three weeks failed to reveal horsemeat in any Dafgård-produced meatballs.

"We've received results from our own tests, as well as from external labs, on finished products and none of them show any traces of horsemeat," Dafgård said in a statement released on Tuesday.

He added that testing continues in the wake of contradictory findings from test conducted in the Czech Republic.

"If something is shown to contain horsemeat, the affected products will obviously be taken off the market," said Dafgård.

Following reports on Monday of the horsemeat discovery, Ikea halted meatball sales at stores in Sweden and 14 other European countries. On Tuesday, the Swedish furniture retailer extended the ban to stores 24 countries, including outlets in Hong Kong, Thailand, and the Dominican Republic.

"It's an important product for us, so the measure is significant but we don't want our clients to worry," Ikea spokeswoman Ylva Magnusson told AFP.

She said that a German laboratory was currently testing the meatballs for traces of horsemeat, with the first results expected on Thursday.

Speaking with Aftonbladet on Monday, Dafgård theorized that the horsemeat may have ended up in his company's meatballs because a slaughterhouse used substituted it in a bid to lower production costs, adding that simple contamination is unlikely because none of the slaughterhouses from which Dafgård buys meat handle horsemeat.

While refusing to comment specifically on Ikea's meatballs, Dafgård explained that much of his company's meat is purchased from suppliers in Ireland and Germany, as well as Sweden and other countries in northern Europe.

He added that his company wants to know why the results of their own horsemeat tests differ from those conducted in the Czech Republic.

"The lab in the Czech Republic hasn't been able to say how much [horsemeat] we're talking about. That's something we really want to know," Dafgård told Sveriges Television (SVT).

Meanwhile, Swedish Agriculture Minister Eskil Erlandsson has been criticized for suggesting that Sweden's National Food Agency (Livsmedelsverket) take over all responsibility for inspecting meat production facilities in Sweden.

According to the Swedish Associations of Local Authorities and Regions (SALAR), local authorities should also be involved.

"Municipalities are close to citizens and citizens have the ability to have a voice if something comes up," Salar spokeswoman Ann-Sofie Eriksson told Sveriges Radio (SR).

While some Swedish food companies claim that certain municipalities have failed to carry out the oversight responsibilities they currently have, Eriksson at SALAR argued the current system works well.

"We think checks carried out by municipalities work well, and in the cases we have now, it's been with the National Food Agency where the problems have been, rather than with the municipalities," she told SR.

The Local/AFP/TT

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