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Beef Products Inc. has files a defamation lawsuit against ABC News Inc., alleging the network’s coverage of a meat product called “pink slime” by its detractors misled consumers into believing it is unhealthy and unsafe.
The Dakota Dunes, S.D.-based meat processor is seeking $1.2 billion in damages for about 200 “false and misleading and defamatory” statements about the product, officially known as lean finely textured beef, according to an Associated Press story posted on BPI’s website.
Filed in a South Dakota state court, the lawsuit also names several individual ABC news reporters, including anchor Diane Sawyer, the Departure of Agriculture microbiologist who coined the term “pink slime,” and a federal food scientist, among others.
ABC News “engaged in a month-long vicious, concerted disinformation campaign against BPI,” the lawsuit alleges. The network’s reporting “caused consumers to believe that our lean beef is not beef at all — that it’s an unhealthy pink slime, unsafe for public consumption, and that somehow it got hidden in the meat,” BPI attorney Dan Webb said in published reports.
ABC News officials denounced the lawsuit as being without merit and vowed to fight it.
In the wake of the debate, BPI was forced to close three of its four U.S. plants and lay off more than 650 workers in the face of declining sales. Webb said the network also published a list of chain grocery stores that had stopped selling the product, and alleged that this pressured others to end their business relationship with BPI. Some retailers stopped selling the produce entirely, while others clearly labeled it to continue offering its customers a choice.