Sabato, 25 Mag, 2019

"Pink slime" lawsuit worth $5.7 billion could change journalism

Lean  finely textured beef is produced at the Beef Products Inc  facility in South Sioux City.   Thomson Reuters Lean finely textured beef is produced at the Beef Products Inc facility in South Sioux City. Thomson Reuters
Sveva Terracina | 09 Giugno, 2017, 00:30

In suing ABC News for its coverage of a widely used processed-meat product that the news organization and others have branded "pink slime", Beef Products Inc. claims it was a victim of a journalistic hit job. The beef company filed a defamation lawsuit in September 2012 and blamed the aftermath of ABC's reporting for its revenue loss of hundreds of millions of dollars, the shuttering of three processing plants, and more than 700 employee layoffs, according to a release from Beef Products. ABC News, a unit of the Walt Disney Co, contends that it never published anything that it knew to be untrue, that its reporting was in the public interest and that the health concerns it flagged up over BPI's "lean finely textured beef" (LFTB) may even have understated the dangers.

The case is being heard in a small South Dakota town called Elk Point, and according to the Oklahoma Farm Report, the county spent $45,000 preparing the windowless courtroom in anticipation of the swarm of lawyers and national media attention that this case will likely drum up.

"Lean finely textured beef", as it's formally known, is a low-priced filler made from leftover cow trimmings sterilized with ammonia which, according to ABC at the time of their report, was used in "70% of ground beef found in supermarkets".

"I'm not an attorney, so I can't judge it from its legal merits, and all the intricacies that it might involve", Justice said, adding later.

The "World News Tonight" segment also reported that 70 percent of the ground beef sold in supermarkets contained the so-called "lean finely textured beef". The company also must prove that ABC hurt BPI.

During the third day of trial, Brashears told jurors that since being retained by BPI in this case, she has visited its South Sioux City plant 18-20 times in the past four years and has observed the process the company uses to make LFTB.


In his opening statement Monday, ABC's attorney, Dane Butswinkas, claimed that the supervisors' lack of action was due to intense lobbying pressure, noting that JoAnn Smith, the USDA assistant secretary for Marketing and Inspection Services at the time, eventually went to work for BPI's main supplier. The product is then used as filler in ground beef products.

Butswinkas argued that the ABC News series wasn't about just food safety but also about improper labeling with the USDA. Comeback: "It's Not "Pink Slime"; It's Safe, Nutritious and 'It's Beef'". "I've concluded that LFTB is not pink slime".

BPI states ABC's "misinformation battle" made their beef processor incomes plummet by eighty percent.

Amos testified on how the network worked to get the story carried on food and parenting blogs and released names of grocery stores that carried LFTB. Approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 1993, LFTB is made from beef trimmings put through centrifuges to remove fat.

Use of the term "pink slime" is one of the major complaints listed in BPI's $1.9 billion defamation lawsuit against ABC and correspondent Jim Avila.

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