Beef Products Inc. (BPI) has filed a $1.2 billion defamation lawsuit against ABC News Inc. over reports calling the company’s lean, finely textured beef (LFTB) product “pink slime.” BPI claims the news network published about 200 “false and disparaging statements” about LFTB, which it says is 100% pure beef. The lawsuit was filed Sept. 13, 2012, in Elk Point, S.D., state court.
According to BPI attorney Dan Webb, Winston & Strawn LLP, ABC began its “sustained vendetta” against the company on March 7. Over the period of 28 days, ABC had 11 television broadcasts, 14 online reports, and a number of social media statements that BPI says were defamatory and “caused consumers to believe that lean beef product is not beef at all and is unsafe for public consumption.” In addition, BPI is claiming that ABC interfered with the company’s business relationships by published a nightly “blacklist” of grocery stores selling “pink slime.”
The Dakota Dunes, S.D.-based company has supplied its product, which is used to reduce the fat content of ground beef, to McDonald’s Corp., Burger King Worldwide Holdings Inc., and Yum! Brands Inc. Declining business the company attributes to sustained ABC reporting led to the closing of three of Beef Products facilities and the laying off of about 700 workers, Webb said. In addition, BPI says it has lost 80% of its sales of LFTB and estimates that it has lost $400 million in profits.
“The lawsuit is without merit,” Jeffrey Schneider, senior vice president of ABC News, said today in a statement. “We will contest it vigorously.”
BPI press release