“Beef Products says its sales plummeted and ground-beef processors canceled orders in droves”
In 2012, ABC News aired a report that FDA whistleblowers were sounding the alarm over the contents of much ground beef for sale in America. According to the ABC News report, a “processed meat product” is treated with small amounts of ammonia and used as filler in the nation’s FDA-approved ground beef.
Beef Products Inc. responded by filing suit against ABC News for food-libel and defamation, with the trial scheduled to begin this week.
Opening statements in what could be the largest defamation case in U.S. history are set to begin Monday in a South Dakota courtroom.
In suing ABC News for its coverage of a widely used processed-meat product that the news organization and others have branded “pink slime,” Beef Products Inc. claims it was a victim of a journalistic hit job. The family-owned South Dakota meat processor claims the reporting reduced its revenues.
. . . . The company filed suit . . ., accusing ABC of creating a false impression “that BPI’s product was not beef or meat, had little or no nutritional value, and was not safe to eat.”
Beef Products says the product, called lean finely textured beef or LFTB, is merely the result of discovering how to extract more lean beef from cows. Approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 1993, LFTB is made from beef trimmings put through centrifuges to remove fat. Some LFTB is treated with tiny amounts of ammonia gas to kill pathogens.
In the wake of ABC’s reports, Beef Products says its sales plummeted and ground-beef processors canceled orders in droves, forcing the company to lay off 700 workers. Less than three weeks after ABC’s first report, Beef Products suspended operations in three of its four processing facilities.
. . . . In addition to its defamation claims, Beef Products is suing under South Dakota’s Agricultural Food Products Disparagement Act, which imposes liability for knowingly publishing false information that asserts or implies that an agricultural food product isn’t safe for public consumption. South Dakota is among more than a dozen states that have enacted “food libel” statutes intended to shield the food-production industry from bogus safety scares.
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