Beef Products Inc. (BPI) has filed a $1.2 billion lawsuit against ABC News, claiming damages as a result of the broadcaster’s coverage of the company’s lean finely-textured beef product (LFTB) – that has become widely known as ‘pink slime’.
The suit alleges that ABC News knowingly and intentionally publishing false and disparaging statements regarding BPI and LFTB, ands that ABC and others launched a concerted disinformation campaign which had a significant adverse affect on BPI’s reputation, as well as a significant negative financial impact.
“Through nearly 200 false, misleading and defamatory statements, repeated continuously during a month-long disinformation campaign, ABC and other individuals knowingly misled consumers into believing that LFTB was not beef and not safe for public consumption, which is completely false,” said Dan Webb, Chairman, Winston & Strawn LLP, the law firm acting for BPI.
“BPI has filed suit because their business has been severely damaged by this conduct,” he continued. “As a result, we will be asking a jury to award BPI more than $1 billion in compensatory and statutory damages, plus punitive damages.”
According to BPI, the damaging statements were made by ABC News even after BPI and others sent ABC factual information about LFTB, including conclusions from USDA, FDA, food safety organisations and numerous beef industry experts that LFTB is a safe, nutritious lean beef.
As a result of the disinformation campaign, BPI said that its sales declined from approximately five million pounds of LFTB per week to less than two million pounds per week, three BPI facilities closed and more than 700 employees lost their jobs.
Reports indicate that a broad range of retailers – including McDonalds, Taco Bell, Burger King, Safeway and Food Lion - have discontinued their use of LFTB, although it is not clear whether this was as a result of the ABC News coverage.
BPI makes LFTB by grinding what would otherwise be waste from beef carcases, and then adds ammonium hydroxide to minimise the risk of e. coli and salmonella.