EU ministers meet as horsemeat spreads across Europe

European Union (EU) agriculture ministers are meeting in Brussels to discuss action over the horsemeat scandal, which continues to spread across the Continent.

One of the main things on the agenda will be the labelling, or in this case, the mislabelling, of meat products and their traceability.

The newest addition to the European scandal comes as a batch of IKEA beef and pork meatballs have tested positive for horse DNA, the Czech news agency CTK has reported. The meatballs, intended to be sold in IKEA stores, were tested by the Czech Republic’s veterinary office.

According to the country’s officials, the Swedish-made meatballs were "intercepted" at a branch of IKEA in a Czech town. As a result of the discovery, 760kg of meatballs were stopped from getting to the shelves in the country.

IKEA’s meatballs in Sweden are supplied by Dafgårds who took over from another company three years ago.

In a press statement, IKEA said: “Today we have been informed that our meatballs could contain traces of horsemeat based on tests that have been carried out in the Czech Republic."

"The concerned production batch of meatballs has been withdrawn from the Swedish Food Market in the IKEA stores. Already two weeks ago, IKEA Group initiated DNA analyses of all meat products in the range. 12 tested samples of different batches of meatballs showed no traces of horsemeat."

"To validate the test results, we are now initiating further tests on the same production batch in which the Czech Republic authorities found indications of horsemeat. We are expecting test results in the coming days and will then be able to give more information."

IKEA has further stopped sales of the concerned batch in the affected countries, which include Slovakia/Czech Republic/Hungary, France, UK, Portugal, Italy, Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Greece, Cyprus and Ireland.

Meanwhile, Poland has again been pulled back into the contamination scandal after German suppliers Dreistern-Konserven and Vossko, whose products were found to contain horsemeat, claimed they had sourced meat from Poland.

Italy and Spain were also dragged in to the scandal last Monday, when Nestlé announced it was withdrawing pasta meals from supermarkets in both countries.

A company in Italy had six tonnes of minced beef and 2,400 packs of lasagne bolognese withdrawn, which is the first positive test in Italy since the scandal started to unravel. However, there have been no traces of horse DNA in Nestlé products in Italy, according to Italian authorities.

In Germany, the consumer affairs ministry announced it has found traces of horse DNA in 67 out of 830 food products tested. Germany’s development minister has suggested feeding the contaminated products to the poor, claiming it would be irresponsible to throw away safe food.

He claimed that more than 800m people are dying of hunger, and that even in Germany there are people who can barely afford food.

However, the idea was dismissed by the opposition, who claimed it was "absurd" and an insult to the poor.