Beef Products Inc. is suing ABC news over reports the network produced about “pink slime,” what BPI’s finely textured and treated beef product has been not-so-lovingly nicknamed. The South Dakota company is claiming defamation, after ABC News (owned by Walt Disney Co., which also owns this site) ran several reports on the product.
After the reports ran, BPI’s sales dropped 80 percent, forcing the company to close three of its four factories and layoff at least 700 workers. The suit alleges that viewers were misled about the safety of the product, which had been approved for human consumption by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. According to the LA Times, it was a former USDA scientist who dubbed the product “pink slime.”
In addition to ABC News, the lawsuit names anchor Diane Sawyer and reporter Jim Avila as defendants. BPI is seeking $1.2 billion in damages and a not-yet-specified amount in punitive damages.
The whole pink slime story exploded earlier this year when ABC ran this report saying almost 70 percent of the ground beef sold in stores contained the lean finely textured beef (aka: pink slime) as filler. The report questioned the USDA official who approved the product, which includes finely ground fat-free beef that has been treated with ammonium hydroxide to kill bacteria. Shortly after the report ran, McDonald’s announced it was no longer serving ground beef that contained this particular filler. Taco Bell and Burger King followed suit.
BPI is an enormous meat-packing and meat-processing corporation so I’m not terribly sympathetic that they’ve lots profits in their beef filler business due to reports on stuff people didn’t know they were eating. I may not speak for all viewers of ABC’s report, but I never thought pink slime wasn’t, in a legal sense, safe to eat. I was not misled in that sense by the report. However, I was not aware of the widespread and somewhat unavoidable consumption of this stuff. I definitely like to know more about what I’m eating and feeding the family. Pink slime, safe or not, is off-putting. No thanks.
However! I am deeply sympathetic toward those who lost their jobs in this situation and so suddenly. Working in meat processing is a hard, gross ,and not terribly well-paid job. Some of the most vulnerable people living in the U.S. rely on this kind of work and can’t easily find other work when these jobs go away. For that reason, the outcome of the pink slime reports is pretty sad.
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