Sunday 3 March 2013

I have no beef with Ikea meatballs and wieners, but...

When I was at Ikea Alexandra with my wife last week, she wanted to buy the frozen chicken wieners.

They were on sale. A pack of five wieners and a pack of five hot dog buns for $5, down from the usual price of $5.50.

Although that’s a saving of only 50 cents, we’re thinking of buying a car and with the new registration taxes and loan restrictions, every bit helps.

But I said no to the Ikea wieners – and it wasn’t because of the horse meat scandal.

In Europe, “indications” of horse meat have been confirmed in Ikea meatballs and wiener sausages, which were withdrawn from stores. It’s enough to turn you into Morrissey.

And trust me, you don’t want to turn into Morrissey (who is famously anti-meat) because you’ll get sick of people asking you when the Smiths are going to reunite and you’ll get into ridiculous feuds with American talk show hosts over duck hunting.

To be honest, I don’t know what kind of meat is supposed to be in Ikea meat products, but apparently, Seabiscuit is a no-no.

It seems no one is actually hungry enough to eat a horse.

In China, the Swedish company tried to allay horse meat fears by releasing a statement that its meatballs there aren’t from Europe but are produced in China.

Now customers in China are upset to learn that the Swedish meatballs aren’t actually from Sweden. Wait till they find out there isn’t any dog in the hot dogs either.

In Hong Kong, the Wall Street Journal reported that “consumers are typically willing to eat just about anything but have found the idea of eating horse-tainted Bolognese just a bit too hard to swallow”. Who knew the Wall Street Journal could be funny?

Here in Singapore, Ikea has stopped selling its meatballs as a “precautionary measure”, pending results from DNA testing. The company said the meat in its Singapore meatballs are from Australia and Brazil.

In a separate statement regarding its Singapore wieners, Ikea said the sausages “contain only chicken sourced and produced locally”.

So unlike the meatballs, the wieners are still on sale in Singapore, which is fortunate as my family prefer wieners to balls anyway. We can still have our sausage party.

Frankly, I think this whole horse meat thing is a bit of an overreaction. Come on, the chemicals in the processed food we eat every day are more harmful.

Or could it all just be an incredibly devious and elaborate publicity stunt by Ikea to promote its other business?

Oh yah, by the way, Ikea also sells furniture.

This may come as a surprise since if you google “Ikea Singapore”, you’ll get a picture of fried chicken wings.

On Wednesday, Ikea Singapore posted this on its Facebook page:
“We’d like to assure you again that the meatballs sold in Ikea Singapore are safe.

“To the tweeple who said they’d be ‘more surprised if wood was discovered in Ikea furniture’, well, here's a black beauty for you.

“The mane material in our Hemnes bookcase is solid pine, saddled with built-in cable management for all of your electronics. Trot into the store to buy it for just $295.”

Ha! “Black beauty”, “mane material”, “saddled”, “trot into the store” – I get it. Horse jokes. Too bad the Year of the Horse is next year.

Never mind the meatballs. Here’s a bookcase.

Then I noticed another piece of news about Ikea which was overshadowed by the horse meat scare.

On Wednesday as well, a former Ikea food services manager was sentenced to 98 weeks in jail for accepting $2.3 million in bribes to favour a supplier of chicken wings to Ikea.

The crime was uncovered in 2009. My wife swears that the Ikea chicken wings haven’t tasted as good since then. Somehow the illicit wings were yummier.

So could all this fuss over the meatballs and wieners be just a sneaky ploy to distract us from the real Ikea food scandal – the less delicious chicken wings?

Well, at least one thing’s for certain. There can’t possibly be any horse meat in chicken wings. Right?

What about the frozen chicken wieners my wife wanted to buy?

Regardless of whether they contain horse meat, I pointed out to my wife that we would still have to cook them whereas we could buy cooked hot dogs for only a buck each from Ikea right there. They even provide the ketchup and mustard.

It just didn’t make economic sense to get the frozen wieners. So we didn’t.

Instead, we bought five hot dogs – cooked.

That’s the kind of savvy consumer I am. Someone should hire me as finance minister. I have more hair.

Oh, and we also bought six chicken wings for $7.50. My wife may insist they’re less tasty than they were four years ago, but they’re still cheaper by the half dozen.

Perhaps someday we’ll get some furniture from Ikea too.

I’m kidding. About a third of my home furniture are from Ikea. They’re made in Sweden, right?

- Published in The New Paper, 3 March 2013

MORE IKEA FOOD SCARE: We did not receive affected almond cake: Ikea Singapore

UPDATE: Ikea to restart selling meatballs