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Reuters/Danish Siddiqui
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IKEA’s latest challenge in India: a cooked caterpillar

By Suneera Tandon

Less than a month into its opening, IKEA’s first Indian store is facing a hygiene problem.

On Aug. 31, a customer allegedly found a caterpillar in the vegetable biryani served at the Hyderabad store’s restaurant. IKEA has been slapped with a fine of Rs11,500 ($163) over food safety concerns by the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Authority following this incident.

IKEA works with local vendors to procure the food served at its 1,000-seater eatery. The vegetable biryani, for instance, is sourced from popular Indian restaurant chain Haldiram’s in Nagpur.

The furniture retailer has taken note. In its statement issued over the incident, the company said:

“We regret the incident and apologise to our customer for the unfortunate experience. We would like to assure him and everyone else that we are investigating the matter currently to assess what happened and take immediate corrective action. At IKEA, we have the strictest guidelines when it comes to food safety and quality as customer health and safety are something we care about deeply,” the company said.

In light of the incident, an IKEA team is expected to visit the food supplier in Nagpur.

The restaurant in Hyderabad is the retailer’s largest in the world. To draw large crowds, the food there has been priced quite low—a serving of biryani is priced at Rs99, while chicken meatballs are available for Rs149.

The facility has remained popular ever since its opening on Aug. 09.

IKEA had prepared for years to get everything right by the time of the inauguration. It even delayed the launch to ensure internal safety requirements were at par.

Yet, the caterpillar incident reflects how food security lapses mar retail chains in India. Fast food chains such as Domino’s and McDonald’s have often been accused of faltering on this front. Last year, a deep-fried lizard was found in a McDonald’s meal in Kolkata.

IKEA’s task only got tougher now.