The Pryor Times


September 17, 2012

Producer of 'pink slime' beef sues ABC for defamation


"What happened with ABC News is that they started this sustained, concerted, long-duration attack where, night after night, they emblazoned on the minds of consumers that we're selling a slime product that is non-nutritious and is unsafe," Webb said.

One media libel defense lawyer thought Beef Products could have a tough time in court.

"I would say they have a very high burden of proving that ABC knew what they said was false at the time they said it," said Laura Handman, a partner at Davis Wright Tremaine in Washington.

Beef Products, according to its attorney, has been forced to shutter three of its four manufacturing facilities after sales dropped 80 percent immediately after the media reports. The company, he added, has laid off 700 employees.

Even though food-safety allegations have been leveled against Beef Products since at least the Times investigation in 2009, the company came under serious attack in the past 18 months from a number of media sources. Many seemed to take their cue from an April 2011 episode of "Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution," in which the British chef demonstrated how lean, finely textured beef is made. (The series aired on ABC before it was canceled last year.)

"This is not fit for human consumption," he said of the meat that is treated with ammonium hydroxide to kill potential pathogens.

On March 5, the Daily, an online news source, reported comments from two former USDA microbiologists and noted that the USDA planned to buy about 7 million pounds of lean finely textured beef for the school lunch program.

One day later, Houston blogger, Bettina Siegel created a petition asking the USDA to remove pink slime from the school lunch program. She got more than 250,000 signatures. The ABC reports began the next day.

Text Only | Photo Reprints