ICA Maxi Solbacken sold reindeer meat from Russia

Reindeer meat from Russia was sold at ICA Maxi in Solbacken last week. After being questioned by Norran, the store decided to stop selling the product. "This is really unfortunate," says ICA store owner Åke Persson. The packages of shredded reindeer meat are dated February this year, although the manufacturer claims that it stopped all Russian imports after the war broke out.

The reindeer meat was stocked at Ica Maxi Solbacken last week.

The reindeer meat was stocked at Ica Maxi Solbacken last week.

Foto: Victor Svenfelt

Skellefteå2023-08-28 11:59

ICA Sweden claims to have stopped Russian products in their stores. Last year, the chain stopped all food and other products produced in Russia. This was due to Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

"The products were removed from the shelves in the stores and deliveries were stopped. This includes about twenty items, which is a very small portion of ICA's total assortment – but an important statement from our side," said ICA's assortment and purchasing director Andreas Sbrodiglia to the industry magazine "Livsmedel i fokus" in March last year.

The reindeer meat was stocked at Ica Maxi Solbacken last week.

When Norran visits ICA Maxi in Solbacken on Friday evening, there is a freezer display full of shredded reindeer meat. Above it hangs a sign saying the product is on sale at a special price, which the store's social media also advertised. Next to the expiration date on the packages is the label RU. This means that the meat comes from Russia.

When Norran contacted the owner of ICA Maxi, Åke Persson, he replied by e-mail on Saturday morning.

"This is really unfortunate and not something we support in any way. Our response was immediate, and the product was removed from our shelves."

Åke Persson is the store manager of Ica Maxi Solbacken.

He adds that the store follows ICA's guidelines regarding products and suppliers.

"This supplier delivers frozen berries and game meat to ICA and is also a local company from Norrland, so this is particularly unfortunate," Åke Persson writes.

The shredded meat product is labeled Polarica, which claims that the product is not theirs – even though their logo covers much of the front of the package.

–The packaging is old and the logo is old. It is Lapin Liha AB that produces the product, Åsa Waara, who works in Polarica's finance department, tells Norran.

Lapin Liha owns the food brand Polarica, under which the Russian reindeer meat has been sold.

Lapin Liha turns out to be Polarica's parent company. Sales manager Peter Ärlig, on the other hand, states that there has been no cooperation with Russia since the outbreak of the war.

– It is no secret that we used reindeer meat from Russia. But that was before the war. The meat that was in the store in Skellefteå was produced a long time ago, says Peter Ärlig, sales manager at Lapin Liha AB.

The production date is set to February 12 of this year. This package contains meat from Russia (RU) and Sweden (SE).

Are you responsible for informing customers that the food they buy is Russian?

– ICA headquarters is aware of this, and we informed them a long time ago. There are still bags of meat in the stores from the time when we used to buy meat from Russia.

Ärlig says that none of the company's newer products contain meat from Russia.

– We make our products in Rovaniemi, Finland, and the meat we use comes from either Finland or Sweden.

On the back of the bag, it states that the company sells shredded reindeer meat from Sweden, Finland, and Russia. This bag is labeled RU, which stands for Russia.

The packets of shredded meat sold at ICA Maxi have a production date of February 2023.

On the packaging it says that it was produced in February 2023. Was the meat also purchased at this time?

– No, the meat was bought before the start of the war, but the product was produced in Rovaniemi in February 2023, Ärlig replies.

Norran visited Stora Coop and Willys in Skellefteå to see if the Russian product was available there. The Polarica brand was found in both stores, but neither had shredded reindeer meat from Russia in stock.  

The reindeer meat carries the Polarica brand.
The reindeer meat carries the Polarica brand.

Lean meat, including game and reindeer, will keep in the freezer for about 12 months. This according to sources such as land.se. Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, 2022, 18 months ago.