Ikea stores in Europe have halted the sale of their iconic cafeteria dish after it was discovered that stores in the Czech Republic were serving some their famous Swedish Meatballs that had been tainted by horse meat. Health officials in the European Union have been scrambling for months to contain a growing scandal that has seen horse meat make its way into the food chain from supermarkets in England to pizza parlors in Denmark to frozen beef patties from Poland.

Several of the continent's meat processing companies have been caught selling horse meat mislabeled as beef or pork, and the mystery meat has made its way to dozens of products from Burger King hamburgers to Nestle's frozen ravioli. The presence of horse meat does not necessarily indicate a health concern, as horse meat is perfectly safe to eat, if handled properly. However, it does indicate a serious lack of oversight when companies can pass off one completely different animal for another. One British report called it "fraud on a massive scale."

The growing horse meat scandal has infected nearly every one of the 27 EU countries over the last two months, but somehow the involvement of Ikea perfectly captures the nature of globalization's darkest secrets. Granted, the Ikea cafeteria is not where one usually goes for the finest cuts of meat, but the revelation that some of their stores may have served illicit horse flesh alongside their (equally mysterious) particleboard furniture is almost fitting.

It's also the closest the scandal has come to hitting an "American" business, though the USDA insists that this country is running on a totally different food system and we don't import horse meat. Yes, it's highly unlikely that horse meat will make it to the shores of the good ol' US of A, but as long as you can get 15 of those delicious orbs (plus mashed potatoes!) for $3.99, would you really in a position to complain? 

Image by Yoppy via Flickr