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In meatball derby, it's Ikea by a nose

February 25, 2013|By Paul Whitefield
  • Ikea has pulled meatballs from 14 European countries after horse meat was found in the product by Czech authorities.
Ikea has pulled meatballs from 14 European countries after horse meat was… (Radek Mica / AFP / Getty Images )

Horse meat in Ikea’s meatballs?

Sorry, Charlie (wait, that’s tuna), but apparently the Swedish furniture giant is jockeying for position with Burger King, Nestle and Tesco in the tainted-meat derby.

My colleague Tiffany Hsu reported Monday that inspectors in the Czech Republic had “found equine evidence in the chain’s frozen meatballs. The affected product was sold as a packaged beef and pork item in more than a dozen European countries but not in the U.S.”

Nay, you say? C’mon.

You went to Ikea and bought a Malm dresser, a Selje nightstand, a Felje wardrobe and a Valby Ruta rug for the bedroom -- all for about $199 plus tax -- and you thought Wolfgang Puck would be in the kitchen whipping up those meatballs?

People shop Ikea for low-cost stuff. And as anyone who has ever assembled one of its products can attest, the company has elevated “corner cutting” to a fine art. Why use metal when plastic will do?

So if you’re upset that there might be more than just beef and pork in your meatballs, better not double-check that Tejn “sheepskin” rug. For that matter, you might not want to look too closely at the particle board in that chest of drawers. Could “Malm” be Swedish for “mare”?  

Sure, it’s not really just about the horse meat (especially if you’re French). As Chicago food industry lawyer John T. Shapiro told Hsu in an email: “Due diligence is becoming ever more important as the global food supply chain expands and becomes more complex. The fallout over the horse meat situation is similar to the controversy over pink slime last year -- it is as much an issue of labeling and consumer perception.”

Well yeah, legal department, it is about “labeling and consumer perception.” But -- and I’ll just play devil’s advocate for a minute -- isn’t it also about eating a meatball that actually contains what the company says it does? Or is that too much to ask?

Ikea, of course, says that the meatballs sold in its U.S. stores come from an American supplier and "contain only beef and pork from animals raised in the U.S. and Canada."

And that "customer confidence is of the utmost importance to Ikea. Ikea is committed to serving and selling high-quality food that is safe, healthy and produced with care for the environment and the people who produce it. We do not tolerate any other ingredients than the ones stipulated in our recipes or specifications, secured through set standards, certifications and product analysis by accredited laboratories."

And Ikea’s Swedish supplier of meatballs, Familjen Dafgard, says it is “investigating the situation” and that it will “perform ongoing, extensive DNA analysis.”

All of which means, well, not a lot. If Ikea’s statement were accurate, there wouldn’t be horse meat in its European meatballs (unless it thinks Europeans are less-discerning meatball eaters than Americans). And if the supplier had proper controls in place, there wouldn’t have been horse meat in the meatballs in the first place, and thus, no need for DNA analysis. 

No, more and more where we are today with our food supply is where the military was a few years ago with gays: “Don’t ask, don’t tell.”

A little soylent green, anyone?


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