Published on September 15th, 2012 | by Jeremy Bloom3
Pink slime fights back!
This nasty amalgam of beef spare parts was uberproccessed to make it edible, then treated with ammonium hydroxide to kill the ugly bacteria that infested it. Then the glop was added back into ground beef and sold to American families and schools. (See: Jamie Oliver wants to know why pink slime is part of your child’s healthy school lunch.)
Here’s what’s been happening since then with pink slime:
- ABC news jumped on the story, reaching a mass audience.
- Shocked and disgusted Americans stopped buying the “Lean, finely textured beef”, the euphemistic name the product was sold under (it was a USDA scientist who dubbed the vile mess “pink slime”).
- With sales dropping faster than cow parts in a slaughterhouse, Beef Products Inc, the company that manufactured “Lean, finely textured beef”, had to close three of its four plants and lay off 700 workers.
- The controversy caused a slump in ALL ground beef products, and pushed another beef products company, AFA Foods Inc., into bankruptcy.
- And now, Beef Products Inc has sued ABC news for $1.2 billion (under the South Dakota “agriculture-libel statute”). Because that’s the American way!
The 251-page lawsuit complains of some-odd 200 “false and misleading and defamatory” statements made by ABC news, and sues everyone they can think of, from ABC parent company Disney to Diane Sawyer to Gerald Zirnstein, the USDA scientist who came up with the “pink slime” moniker.
The main ABC report (see video, next page) described pink slime as “beef trimmings that were once used only in dog food and cooking oil, now sprayed with ammonia to make them safe to eat and then added to most ground beef as a cheaper filler.”
While that’s certainly disgusting and uncomplimentary, it doesn’t exactly rise to the level of “false and misleading and defamatory”.
So, do they have a hope in hell of winning? Not so much. As the AP reports:
South Dakota is one of 13 states that have enacted a food-disparagement law, but there’s virtually no history of the laws being used in lawsuits, said Neil Hamilton, a Drake University professor and director of the Agricultural Law Center in Des Moines, Iowa.
…One of the most high-profile cases involved Oprah Winfrey, who was sued in 1998 by a group of Texas ranchers for a show in which she swore off eating hamburgers because of mad cow disease. The Texas law forbids false and disparaging remarks about agricultural products. A jury eventually sided with Winfrey…
But as University of Wisconsin journalism professor Bob Drechsel told the AP, this suit might be more about BPI trying to win the public relations battle than actually winning in court. “Sometimes, you don’t always sue to win,” he said. “You win when you sue.”
->Next page: Watch the ABC report that started the controversy