Once the term “pink slime” stuck, sales plummeted, plants closed and Beef Products Incorporated of Dakota Dunes, South Dakota lost money, a lot of money.
In fact, the only BPI plant now operating is located in South Sioux City, Nebraska.
Today, BPI filed a $1.2 billion lawsuit against ABC News and the American Broadcasting Company for “knowingly and intentionally publishing false and disparaging statements” regarding BPI’s product it calls “lean finely textured beef.”
The 250 page lawsuit was filed in Union County District Court in South Dakota.
BPI lawyer, Dan Webb of the Winstrom and Strawn firm, says ABC News launched a long-term sustained vicious attack of misinformation against the company.
“This disinformation campaign that extended over about a 30-day time period, among other things, consisted of over 200 false and misleading, defamatory and disparaging statements,” Webb said in a news conference.
The lawsuit takes direct aim at the use of the term “pink slime”, used repeatedly in news reports about the BPI product.
“ABC used that term ‘pink slime’ to refer to my client’s product over 130 times,” Webb stated. “I will put experts on the witness stand that will tell this jury there is no worse pejorative or derogatory term that you could every use to refer to any food product.”
Webb said he will tell the jury that 30-years of hard work and production of a good product were severely damaged in the 30 days of ABC’s reports. “Our sales went down immediately 80%. Eighty-percent lost business because of what ABC did to this company,” Webb said.
“The people in this room had to fly around this country to three of their manufacturing facilities and call their employees into a room, and stand up and explain to 700 of them, we can’t employ you any longer.”
BPI closed processing plants in Iowa, Kansas and Texas, only keeping open it South Sioux City plan. The company estimates it lost $400 million in profits. The lawsuit asks for triple damages under South Dakota’s food disparagement statute, as well as additional punitive damages.
A statement from ABC News says the lawsuit is without merit.
By Woody Gottburg, KSCJ, Sioux City