(Poll) 'Pink Slime' Coverage Leads to Billion-Dollar Defamation Lawsuit Against ABC News, Diane Sawyer and Others
Beef Products Inc. has filed a defamation lawsuit against ABC News stemming from coverage of a meat product called "finely textured beef."
Who can forget a memorable term like "pink slime," which critics used to describe "lean, finely textured beef," an inexpensive filler used to stretch ground beef found commonly in grocery stores and restaurants?
Media outlets jumped on the story – and the term. Businesses around Iowa and beyond such as Hy-Vee pulled the meat from their shelves, restaurants and schools stopped serving it, and Beef Products Inc., the processor of the meat, closed its Cedar Valley plant which cost 650 jobs.
Two companies won't soon be forgetting the term.
BPI of South Dakota has filed a billion dollar defamation lawsuit against ABC News, anchor Diane Sawyer and others. The lawsuit claims the network misled consumers into believing the product is unhealthy and unsafe.
The meat processor is seeking $1.2 billion in damages for roughly 200 "false and misleading and defamatory" statements about the product.
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Other defendants include ABC correspondents Jim Avila and David Kerley; Gerald Zirnstein, the USDA microbiologist who named the product "pink slime;" Carl Custer, a former federal food scientist; and Kit Foshee, a former BPI quality assurance manager who was interviewed by ABC, according to the Associated Press.
The "defendants engaged in a month-long vicious, concerted disinformation campaign against BPI," the AP cites the lawsuit as claiming.
BPI claims the misleading information led to false impressions and "catastrophic" results for the the company, including a 80 percent loss in business over a 28-day period.
While the company faced a public relations nightmare on one end, a bevy of advocates spoke out in defense of the food, including Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, who joined other Republican governors to tour a plant and taste some LFTB-filled burgers.
Meanwhile, Hy-Vee was among the stores who announced it would return the product to its shelves, with a label denoting which meat contains LFTB and which does not.
A tidal wave of social media attention inflated the controversy that started back in 2009 when a federal microbiologist first used the term “pink slime,” according to the Associated Press.