Ikea has withdrawn chocolate cake from its shelves after tests revealed that it contained a bacteria found in faeces.

The Swiss furniture company said that the cakes were destroyed in November and December, but that the head office was only alerted to the problem recently.

Chinese authorities said they ordered the destruction of two tonnes of chocolate and almond cake imported into the country by Ikea because it contained excessive levels of coliform bacteria.

Mats Lindblad, a microbiologist at the Swedish National Food Agency, said that coliform bacteria "could be an indication of faecal contamination, though not always".

Ylva Magnusson, Ikea spokesperson, said: "The product was stopped and destroyed. So none of the cakes made it to our restaurants.

"There are indications that the levels of bacteria found are low but we obviously have to know the exact amount and find out how this happened."

The cakes have now been withdrawn from 23 countries, but the UK and Ireland are not affected.

A company statement said: "Traces of coliform bacteria have been found in two isolated production batches of almond cake with chocolate and butterscotch, produced for the restaurant, from one supplier in Sweden.

"There is no health risk associated with consuming this product.

"The production batches have, as per safety and quality routines, been tested for bacteria that can cause health issues, such as E.coli, and none of these pathogen bacteria have been found."

Ikea recently had to pull its meatballs from sale in after traces of horsemeat were found by authorities in the Czech Republic.

The company pulled its meatballs from its shelves in 25 countries. "It's very important to us that the products our customers buy are safe and secure to use and to eat," Magnusson said.