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‘Pink Slime’ Lawsuit Gets Green Light for Trial As Product Demand Returns

Lean, finely textured beef (LFTB) is back, and the lawsuit one of its producers has going against ABC News is not going away.

It hasn’t been for lack of trying. ABC tried to get the “disparagement of agriculture” lawsuit dismissed, and, when that failed, transferred it to U.S. District Court. That failed, too.

Now the South Dakota Supreme Court has given the green light for the $1.2-billion lawsuit to go forward in a Union County trial court in Elk Point, SD. It means that soon ABC anchorwoman Diane Sawyer, reporter Jim Avila and others will be sitting down for depositions.

When the lawsuit was originally filed, most legal prognosticators did not think that the plaintiff, Beef Products Inc. of Dakota Dunes, SD, would get this far.

But the BPI vs. ABC lawsuit is going forward just as demand is also coming back for LFTB, two years after depiction of the product in the media as “pink slime” put consumer pressure on retailers and restaurants to pull the product.

Now, however, many of those same restaurants and retailers fear losing their customers for beef patties because they cost too much. LFTB, produced by both BPI and Cargill, is in demand to keep hamburger prices down.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Cargill is providing LFTB to about 400 food service and food-processing companies. It has more customers buying in smaller amounts, and sales have again surpassed levels reached before the blowup over “pink slime.”

BPI, meanwhile, has doubled sales from its low point after 80 percent of demand collapsed when it was forced to close three out of four plants and lay off 700 employees.

Both Cargill and BPI make a finely textured product by recovering bits of meat from fat trimmings using a centrifuged process. Both make an “all-beef” product that can be mixed with regular muscle cuts of ground beef.

Hamburger prices today are almost one-third higher than they were when irate bloggers demanded “pink slime” be removed from school lunches and fast-food joints.

Another difference between now and then is that retailers selling hamburger containing lean, finely textured beef are labeling it as such.

As for the lawsuit, no trial date has been set. South Dakota is one of 13 states with “disparagement of agriculture” laws, according to the Agricultural Law Center in Des Moines, IA. Until BPI vs. ABC, there was no history of litigation under these statutes in any of the states.

© Food Safety News
  • rona

    They should have included Ophra in that suit as she was lying about Beef quite some time ago in Nebraska. Its high time some of these people found out how much it cost to slander and lie.

    • Considering that Oprah was vindicated in court, we can only hope the same for the folks behind this “pink slime” controversy.

      http://www.cnn.com/US/9802/26/oprah.verdict/

      Perhaps the meat industry needs to clean up its act, rather than attempt to suppress the Constitution.

      I’m more concerned about the fact that we’re playing games with the meat supply again, rather than encourage people to pay the _real_ costs, and consider eating less.

      This time, at least, people know what’s in that burger they’re eating. Unfortunately, this doesn’t work at the fast food restaurants.

    • Joanne Jensen

      Liar. Oprah (learn to spell) was vindicated in that phony lawsuit. She did not lie; the beef industry did.

  • Victor Grunden

    This is about labeling. I had the pleasure of working with very quality conscious food industry that knew the difference between sausages and a pure meat product. An all beef product means the “melts and sweetbreads”, smooth muscle internal organs and fat trimmings can be in your hamburger. LFTB takes fat trimmings to a new level by melting the fat, starting the cooking process of meat, then halting the cooking by ammonia refrigeration and salvaging the meat. It’s been almost 50 years since I’ve done food chemistry tests, but I suspect the pink color is a combination of cooking(rare meat) and absorption of nitrogenous compounds. Unfortunately, sensationalism took over and the consumer was left ill informed. If a product is rejected by the public, it appears to me that the first order of business is to properly inform the consumer and then gauge consumer sentiment. Legal redress is one thing, the court of public opinion is where final and complete victory must be achieved.