Friday, September 14, 2012

'Pink slime' maker suing ABC News for defamation

The beef company most affected by the "pink slime" controversy earlier this year is taking legal action against ABC and its news division for defamation of character. Beef Products Inc. claims the news organization cost the company $400 million. Anchor Diane Sawyer and reporters Jim Avila and David Kerley are also named as defendants.

“ABC ran for about 30 days a vicious disinformation campaign that consists of almost 200 false and misleading defamatory statements,” BPI attorney Dan Webb told Tim Carman of The Washington Post. The South Dakota-based company is asking for $1.2 billion because the state's Agricultural Food Products Disparagement Act allows plaintiffs to triple the amount of damages. ABC News senior vice president Jeffrey Schneider said the lawsuit "is without merit," and that the organization will "contest it vigorously."

Several media outlets reported on lean, finely textured beef, that was once widely used in fast-food burgers, school lunch programs and sold in grocery stores. But reporters discovered a reference to LFTB as "pink slime" in 2002 by former U.S. Department of Agriculture microbiologist Gerald Zirnstein, and it was revealed that ammonia was combined with meat during the process of making LFTB.

Beef Products is singling out ABC because it says that since March 7 the network reported about LFTB in 11 broadcasts, 14 online reports and in social-media statements that allegedly contained 200 false statements about the product. But media libel defense lawyer Laura Handman told Schneider that Beef Products could have a difficult time winning the suit because it will be hard to determine whether ABC knew what it reported was false. (Read more)

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