The maker of lean finely textured beef, often called “pink slime” by the media, has announced a defamation suit against ABC News after media attention led to decreased product demand, job layoffs and closed plants.
Beef Products Inc., claims media attention to LFTB misled consumers, giving the perception that their product was unhealthy and unsafe. The Associated Press reports BPI’s attorney, Dan Webb, says the company seeks $1.2 billion in damages for roughly 200 ‘‘false and misleading and defamatory’’ statements about LFTB.
ABC news anchor Diane Sawyer and other ABC correspondents along with the Department of Agriculture microbiologist who coined the term “pink slime” are a few of the individuals named in the lawsuit filed in South Dakota.
According to the Associated Press, BPI lost 80 percent of its business in 28 days and LFTB sales have fallen from five million pounds per week to less than 2 million pounds per week. The lawsuit seeks three times an estimated $400 million for compensatory damages in addition to punitive damages.
The North American Meat Association issued a statement Thursday in support of the lawsuit. NAMA CEO Barry Carpenter said the facts will show in a court of law that ABC pilloried an upstanding company.
“By continuing to make malicious claims against BPI despite copious proof of those claims’ falsehood, not to mention intentionally using misleading images and pejorative terminology, ABC has damaged the company and the industry, and has also misled the beef-consuming public, depriving them of a high quality cost-effective product," Carpenter said in the statement.
ABC News Senior Vice President Jeffrey Schneider says the lawsuit is without merit. "We will contest it vigorously."
Earlier this year BPI says the negative impact on LFTB forced the company to close three of its four plants and cut about 650 jobs.
See the full 263-page lawsuit here.