Thursday, September 13, 2012

'Pink Slime" defamation suit

Beef Products Inc. sued ABC News, Inc. for defamation Thursday over its coverage of a meat product that critics dub "pink slime," claiming the network damaged the company by misleading consumers into believing it is unhealthy and unsafe.
Although several news organizations used the term "pink slime," Dan Webb, BPI's Chicago-based attorney,  said ABC was being sued for attacking the company "night after night." The "defendants engaged in a monthlong vicious, concerted disinformation campaign against BPI," the lawsuit claims, citing 11 TV and 14 online reports from March 7 to April 3.
"The lawsuit is without merit," Jeffrey W. Schneider, ABC's senior vice president, said in a brief statement Thursday. "We will contest it vigorously."
The lawsuit filed in a South Dakota state court  names several individuals as defendants, including Kit Foshee, a former BPI quality assurance manager who was interviewed by ABC.
The Food Integrity Campaign, a whistleblower advocacy group that has worked with Foshee, said in a statement Thursday that Foshee was fired from BPI because he refused to participate in the company's "misrepresentation of the product's safety to the USDA and to consumers."
"Thanks to ABC News, Kit Foshee and other whistleblowers shared their concerns about BPI," said Amanda Hitt, the group's director and former counsel to Foshee after he was fired. "Doing so took enormous courage for which they should be honored, not attacked. We believe that this product is questionable."
Critics worry about how the meat is processed. Bits of beef are heated and treated with a small amount of ammonia to kill bacteria, a practice that has been used for decades and meets federal food safety standards. Webb said that ABC ignored that information, instead giving the impression "that it's some type of chemical product ... some kind of repulsive, horrible, vile substance that got put into ground beef and hidden from consumers."
The name "pink slime" gained traction after The New York Times quoted Gerald Zirnstein, the USDA microbiologist who named the product "pink slime" in a 2009 article on the safety of meat processing methods. In the following years, celebrity chef Jamie Oliver began railing against it. McDonald's Corp. and other fast food companies stopped using the product, and major supermarket chains vowed to stop selling beef containing the low-cost product. An online petition calling for it to be banned from school menus, attracting hundreds of thousands of supporters.
Source: AP

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