Beef Products Sues ABC News Over ‘Pink Slime’ Reports

Beef Products Inc. filed a $1.2 billion defamation lawsuit against Walt Disney Co. (DIS)’s ABC News Inc. over reports calling the company’s lean, finely textured beef product “pink slime.”

Beef Products and two related companies claim the news network published about 200 “false and disparaging statements” about a product it says is pure beef, in a complaint filed today in Elk Point, South Dakota, state court.

“ABC News embarked on a sustained, 30-day vendetta against this company,” Beef Products attorney Dan Webb said in a telephone interview today. His client is seeking $1.2 billion in compensatory damages as well as punitive damages, he said.

The Dakota Dunes, South Dakota-based company has supplied its product, which is used to reduce the fat content of ground beef, to McDonald’s Corp. (MCD), Burger King Worldwide Holdings Inc. and Yum! Brands Inc. (YUM)

Declining business the company attributes to sustained ABC reporting led to the closing of three of Beef Products facilities and the laying off of about 700 workers, Webb said.

The news organization published a nightly “blacklist” of grocery stores selling “pink slime,” interfering with BPI’s business relationships, according to the complaint.

“The lawsuit is without merit,” Jeffrey Schneider, senior vice president of ABC News, said today in a statement. “We will contest it vigorously.”

In its statement, ABC News said BPI’s product -- made from beef trimmings heated and sprayed with an ammonia gas to kill bacteria -- has been declared safe to eat by the U.S. Agriculture Department.

The case is Beef Products Inc. v. American Broadcasting Cos. Inc., CIV#12-292, Circuit Court for the First Judicial Circuit, Union County, South Dakota (Elk Point).

To contact the reporter on this story: Andrew Harris in Chicago at aharris16@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net

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