STOCKHOLM — Ikea Group halted the sale of sausages sold in five countries on concern about horse-meat contamination as the Swedish home furnishings and food retailer extended a ban on meatballs to some stores beyond Europe.
Ikea has found traces of horse meat "in a handful" of hundreds of test results and is continuing to examine all of its meat products, Ylva Magnusson, a spokeswoman, said Wednesday.
The retailer extended a ban on meatball sales to Thailand, Hong Kong and the Dominican Republic on Wednesday and added restrictions on wiener sausages in Britain, France, Spain, Ireland and Portugal that were produced by the same company that supplied the meatballs.
Ikea, the world's largest furniture retailer, draws customers with relatively inexpensive modern furniture as well as its signature meatballs and other Scandinavian foods offered in outlets with restaurants. The company, controlled by Swedish billionaire Ingvar Kamprad, suspended the sale of meatballs in 21 countries earlier this week after Czech Republic authorities discovered traces of horse meat.
The scandal that started in Ireland in mid-January has spread around the world as governments test products and retailers in some countries withdraw items such as frozen beef burgers, lasagnas and meatballs from the shelves. The European Union has ordered testing across the region, while South Africa, spurred by European discoveries, is investigating how unlabeled donkey, goat and water buffalo got into supermarket products.
The meatballs that tested positive for equine DNA were made by a Swedish producer, spokeswoman Sara Paulsson said by phone. Countries in which stores are supplied by other manufacturers aren't affected by the ban. Europe is home to 245 of Ikea's 338 stores, including shops run as franchises, the retailer's website shows.
The producer, the Familjen Dafgaard brand of Gunnar Dafgaard AB, has found horse meat in some of their own-branded products, Lukas Linne, a spokesman for the Swedish National Food Agency, said by phone Wednesday. Linne couldn't comment on what kind of products the horse meat had been found in, or in what quantities.
Dafgaard confirmed there are traces of horse meat in the batch of meat that was withdrawn after Czech authorities found traces. The producer has also found traces of horse meat in another three batches of frozen meatballs, which have been withdrawn from the market. Dafgaard said its main focus now is to continue tests to find the source of the meat.
Sweden's TT news agency said Wednesday that the tests at Dafgaard indicated that horse-meat content was 1.5 percent to 10 percent in some samples of meatballs. Such a reading implies that horse meat had been mixed into the product, and that it's not a case of contamination in handling, TT reported.
Prior to the ban, a meal of 10 Swedish meatballs in an Ikea restaurant cost 3.89 pounds ($5.90) in British stores. A portion of 15 sold for 4.50 pounds and 20 for 5.79 pounds.
Separately, Britain said that of 3,634 DNA tests done by food businesses and the Food Standards Agency, 35, or less than 1 percent, gave a positive result for horse meat, the minister responsible for food said Wednesday.
South Africa's probe into supermarket meats found to contain donkey, goat and water buffalo began last month after horse DNA was found in beef burgers and lasagnes being sold by British retailers including Tesco Plc, said Maja Popo, a spokesman for the state national health department, by phone from Pretoria.
Tesco Chief Executive Officer Philip Clarke said Wednesday that the biggest British grocer will absorb the cost of testing products for horse meat and pledged to sell more British meat.
"The total cost isn't that great, but in the scheme of things, our margin will come down a touch," Clarke said in an interview with BBC Radio 4's "Today" program.
Greencore Group, based in Dublin, said Feb. 14 it was awaiting results of further tests after saying it supplied beef bolognese sauce that Wal-Mart Stores's Asda chain withdrew after traces of horse DNA were found.
Ireland's Agricultural Ministry is investigating the presence of horse DNA in beef products in the country.