Almost two years after ABC News aired the TV segment, “Pink Slime and You,” attacking the beef industry for its use of lean finally textured beef (LFTB), Beef Products Inc. (BPI), and Freezing Machines, Inc., are one step closer to taking the national news station to court. The $1.2 billion lawsuit filed back in September 2012 was approved to continue by a South Dakota state judge on March 27, 2014.
The defamation lawsuit is targeted at ABC, and news anchors Diane Sawyer and reporter Jim Avila, with claims that BPI’s reputation was damaged with the using of the label “pink slime.” Another defendant includes a former USDA microbiologist who is credited with coining the term.
"The entirety of the broadcasts can be reasonably interpreted as insinuating that plaintiffs are improperly selling a product that is not nutritious and/or not safe for the public's consumption," Judge Cheryle Gering of the Union County Circuit Court writes. “The entirety of the broadcasts can be reasonably interpreted as insinuating that plaintiffs are improperly selling a product that is not nutritious and/or not safe for the public's consumption.”
After the segment and follow up stories were aired in March and April of 2012, public outcry resulted in major retailers including Wal-Mart and Safeway to pull ground beef containing the beef trimming product from their supermarket shelves, as well as schools participating in USDA’s National School Lunch Program and several fast food companies.
This resulted in BPI having to close three of its four plants, laying off hundreds of employees.
“For more than 30 years, our family has built and operated companies that are committed to providing consumers with wholesome, safe and nutritious lean beef. We’ve created thousands of good jobs for Americans and our lean finely textured beef has made the leaner ground beef that consumers desire more affordable,” states Eldon Roth, founder and CEO of BPI, in a news release announcing the lawsuit. “The blatantly false and disparaging statements made about our lean beef have done more than hurt my family and our companies, they have jeopardized the future of our employees and their families.”