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BPI Sues ABC News, Former USDA Officials for ‘Pink Slime’ Defamation

Suit seeks $1.2 billion and punitive damages

Beef Product Inc, the maker of Lean Finely Textured Beef (LFTB), now commonly known as “pink slime,” on Thursday filed suit against ABC News, former U.S. Department of Agriculture officials, and a former company employee for alleged defamation of its product, which used to be a component of the vast majority of ground beef in the United States.

The suit, filed by the Dakota Dunes, SD-based company in South Dakota state court, seeks $1.2 billion in damages as well as punitive damages for what it calls a “sustained and vicious campaign” against LFTB that led consumers to believe the product is unhealthy, fraudulently labeled and unsafe.

Dan Webb, the lead attorney on the case, told reporters that the media firestorm earlier this year caused BPI “enormous financial harm,” including an 80 percent drop in business, $400 million in lost profit, 700 layoffs, and the closing of three of the company’s four plants. Webb said he believes the defamation in this case is “unparalleled.”

In their 263 page complaint, BPI alleges that ABC and others launched a “concerted disinformation campaign” including nearly 200 false or misleading statements that directly caused the company harm.

Elden Roth, founder and CEO of BPI, said he believes the media coverage of LFTB included “blatantly false and disparaging statements” which not only hurt his family and their businesses, but the families of those they employed.

ABC News said Thursday it would defend its news coverage against the allegations.

“The lawsuit is without merit. We will contest it vigorously,” said Jeffrey Schneider, senior vice president at ABC News.

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See more Food Safety News of the LFTB controversy:

Slimegate: Should USDA Required Labeling for LFTB?

30 Lawmakers Ask USDA to ‘Correct the Public Record’ on LFTB

BPI and ‘Pink Slime’: A Timeline

© Food Safety News
  • Amelia

    BPI sure got unfairly screwed and I wish them luck but not much chance of forcing ABC and Disney to pay up. I would prefer to see families of unemployed BPI workers join in a class action suit against vulnerable instigators and followers: Bettina Seigel, Jamie Oliver’s production company, some of the school districts who jumped on the band wagon and jettisoned a perfectly safe nourishing food, LFTB. Wouldn’t get 1.2 billion but plenty enough to send the chastised schools back to court after Disney for damages. Now there you might have a shot, hoodwinked school kids vs. a reckless Disney/ABC.

  • I read through the complaint. I have read other complaints related to other cases, and I know there’s a high degree of hyperbole in these complaint documents, but this one really takes the cake.
    I especially love the bit that assertions about ammonia being used to ensure the end product is safe are defamation.
    “Defendants published false statements regarding BPI’s use of ammonium hydroxide. Defendants made false statements regarding the method, volume and purpose of BPI’s ammonium hydroxide process. Defendants’ statements implied that the beef trimmings used to produce LFTB were contaminated and not safe for public consumption.”
    The whole reason the USDA approved the procedure to make this form of adulterated beef is because of the use of ammonia to ensure a ‘safe’ end product.
    It’s like the BPI lawyers have fallen through the Looking Glass, into a land where ammonia is used to enhance flavor rather than improve safety.
    Note to lawyers: ammonia never improves flavor.
    I won’t even get into the ‘trimmings not previously being used as dog food’, or the ‘cooking’ aspect.
    What’s astonishing is BPI never did get what it was doing wrong, and what it could do to make things better. In the end, is now flaming out as one of the more egregious examples of companies who have failed Internet 101.
    This case should be exiting the court house quickly, but lately I’ve come to understand more fully the fallibility of judicial judgement.
    I guess we’ll just have to sit back and enjoy the show.

  • Healthy

    Feel free to keep on eating it Amelia, hopefully it’s continued production thins out the ignorant population
    P.S. feel free to wash down your pink slime with a glass of bleach chances are that won’t hurt you eather

  • PJ

    700 layoffs. Wow! I guess ABC got so caught up in sensationalism and ratings it didn’t consider the serious harm it was doing. News media seems to have given up on objectivity. Walter Cronkhite must be rolling over in his grave. 700 people will have a hard time finding new work in this economy. They probably have families with kids. Someone should be held responsible.

  • federal microbiologist

    This lawsuit seems to be more the product of a fit of pique on the part of Eldon Roth, rather than an well thought-out legal action.
    Certainly Eldon’s strategy is focused on filing the lawsuit in South Dakota. Presumably a jury or judge in that state will be more inclined to come to a decision favorable to the plaintiff….sort of a ‘Flyover Country’ State of Mind sort of thing.
    However, if ABC can eventually maneuver the trial into being held in the East Coast, all the defense has to do is bring some pink slime (LFTB) into the court room and show it to the jurors, and Eldon’s case will vanish.
    Maybe Eldon should look to recover the $152,000 he donated to Iowa governor Terry Branstad in the latter’s 2010 gubernatorial campaign.
    All that money, and yet Terry came late to the game in speaking publicly about the wondrous, life-affirming, magical properties of LFTB.
    Politicians…what do you get for your money ? Nothing !

  • John

    Another FAIL from foodsafetynews. I just entered a very long comment, but I got your scrambled illegible captcha wrong, so of course your website decided to delete everything that I had written, instead of simply letting me re-enter another captcha.

  • Jon

    Ahem…. alerting eaters to the presence of highly-processed meat scraps in their food supply is Not disinformation — it’s INFORMATION!
    ABC was clearly doing it’s job. Clearly the public was taken aback by these revelations and made the Choice not to buy or eat it. Businesses like McDonalds followed. Hence BPI had to shut down part of its lucrative business that hitherto had flown under the radar…
    This lawsuit is just a further sham — and most likely will only help to point out further unwanted processing tricks that lie in our food supply.

  • Wynann

    BPI was not screwed, but the people of America were when poisionous crop in the form of fillers, preservatives and whatever in our food so they can stretch the greedy $’s out as far as they can to fill their greedy pockets. They and Montsano and others don’t give a rats behind as to what they do to our food, as long as the get the big bucks. Let the people decide what we eat or don’t eat. Keep the chemical pink slime out of our meat, and all other chemicals out of all of our food.

  • pyst

    It is a surprise to me that that beef products inc is still in business and producing
    2 million pounds of their product.
    I wonder who the lucky consumers of their product are, prison inmates?
    the real problem with the product is that the ammonia gas did not actually
    work reliably. Also because gristle and other non meat cow parts were
    included in the bpi product it was less nutritious than ground beef.

  • Tatiana

    BPI is more Monsanto poison to hurt us
    Real scary stuff if your not careful you can be sick with it

  • MAE

    I AM SO GRATEFUL FOR ABC,FOR BRINGING THIS TO OUR ATTENTION.I WILL ALWAYS PRAISE THEM. AT LEAST THEY LET US KNOW WHAT WE WERE EATING. JUST MADE ME ILL WHEN I FOUND OUT. AS THE HAMBURGER I WAS BUYING. HAD PINK SLIM IN IT. IT WAS NOT BEEF IT WAS SLIM.I EVEN ASK THE BUTCHER ONE TIME WHAT THEY WERE PUTTING INTO THE HAMBURGER. AS I SAID BACK WHEN I WAS A KID. HAMBURGER TASTED REAL GOOD. NOT LIKE IT DOES NOW. BUT HE TOLD ME THAT THEY DID NOT PUT ANYTHING IN IT.AS IT WAS AGAINST THE RULES. BPI GOT WHAT IT DESERVED. THEY SHOULD HAVE BEEN HONEST WITH US.AND TOLD US ABOUT IT AND THE CHEMICAL IT AHD IN IT. AND NOT CLAIMED THE PINK SLIM AS BEEF.NOT ONLY THAT THEY SHOULD HAVE HAD IT ON THE LABEL. AND LET US DECIDE IF WE WANTED TO BUY THAT CRAP OR NOT!!!! ALL I CAN SAY IS THANK YOU ABC FOR GIVING THE CONSUMERS HONEST INFORMATION ABOUT THE PRODUCT WE WERE BUYING.

  • keene observer

    It appears we have a quorum of self-styled ammonia chemists and make-believe meat scientists who have difficulty composing intelligent sentences, much less any coherent thought. Thus we can safely expect the BPI witch will be burned at the stake. Shameful fanaticism.

  • Amaretta

    My daughter has terrible ammonia allergy so bad I can’t clean anything or she might die. We must rent and move when it gets real dirty. Ammonia in pink slime makes her adipose swell up so she has to stay home from work. That makes more dirt in the apartment so we have to move sooner. If Marler will take us on contingency we will sue BPI and there are some old landlords that won’t give us our security deposits. My grandaughter has it too but SSI won’t pay.

  • employees?
    what about the children???
    pink slime or lean fine textured beef ?
    these are my opinions, along with a bit of science on the issue of feeding our children via the USDA NSLP.
    1ST and foremost, ammoniated beef does NOT kill the BSE TSE prion mad cow agent.
    to define these scraps i.e. pink slime, as lean fine textured beef, instead of whatever else you would like to call it, at best, is very deceiving.
    I did not coin the term ‘pink slime’, but i think whoever did, the term fits the product, more than what the USDA et al would like you to call it.
    PINK SLIME LFTB MSM MRM BSE TSE PRION
    Thursday, September 13, 2012
    ABC NEWS SLIMED BY BPI OVER LFTB SCAM
    http://madcowusda.blogspot.com/2012/09/abc-news-slimed-by-bpi-over-lftb-scam.html

  • Steve

    It used to be when you went to the grocer, meat was meat. But now “where’s the beef?”
    At your local supermarket it’s mostly industrially-manipulated meat in those bright shiny cases — starting with the cattle fed everything from ethanol waste, genetically modified commodity crops and chicken manure in the feedlot and boosted with a regimen of hormones, antibiotics and a slew of other drugs to promote weight gain and keep them alive in stressful, concentration-camp conditions. Burger-meat and lesser cuts come from from a high proportion of spent dairy cows, and yes, with some on their last legs — and a single burger patty can consist of parts of 100’s of cows all mixed together.
    This “meat” is further chemically treated in the packaging to maintain that good ole natural red beef color (and to promote a long, salable shelf-life) and some cuts are routinely heavily punctured (tenderized) with tiny needles to make them palatable (and more expensive).
    BPI’s “pink slime” product takes the industrial manipulation process a few worrisome steps further. Because this business model processes cheap but inherently risky meat scraps the ammonia process is completely necessary to destroy virulent pathogens. And even if you forced a cow to swallow a centrifuge and drink gallons of ammonia — this highly processed form of “meat” could never exist naturally in any part of the cow.
    BPI profited greatly by developing an industrial process enabling them to be able to sell previously unsalable meat scraps — and their sales tanked only because consumers were finally alerted to what was being produced as “meat” in their names. Unfortunately the good honest (lowly paid) workers in the trenches became collateral damage in this buyer reaction, but corporations are in business to take care of the bottom line for shareholders (and Executive salaries), not the workers.
    The Real bottom line is we are what we eat. The industrialization and processing of our food supply is inherently risky. Consumers have a Total right to know how our food is being produced, every step of the way — and a Total right to choose otherwise.
    Thankfully — Big Meat hasn’t put all the smaller-scale producers out of business — but they’re trying. There are really great and tasty — Real Beef — farm-raised, grass-fed alternatives…

  • Ted

    Thanks “Steve”. More long-winded flotsam intended to frighten us. This is precisely the sort of redundant activist nonsense BPI is up against. That all of us are up against, unfortunately.
    Well, if “you are what you eat” (oh, what an original fantasy cliche!), then ‘ol Steve-arino really should cut back on the organic bologna salad. He came dangerously close to blowing a sphincter with that last load…then who would shill for NOFA’s bottom line?

  • Sam

    The truth hurts — doesn’t it Ted? So bad that, as usual, you can’t even address or counter the points via an honest discussion — but resort, as usual, to disinformation and snide ad hominem finger-pointing.
    So transparent… Good luck with that.