ABC Asks Judge To Toss Out Beef Company’s “Pink Slime” Defamation Lawsuit

Thinking about the actual texture and consistency of your common slime, one might come to the idea that the stuff would move along rather slowly. And that same sluggish image also comes to mind in the legal brouhaha over ABC News’ coverage of lean, finely textured beef, otherwise known as “pink slime.” It just keeps slorping along, with ABC now asking a judge to toss the whole suit out, more than a year after Beef Products Inc. first filed it.

ABC’s lawyer asked a circuit judge yesterday to toss out the defamation lawsuit, which came about in the aftermath of its news coverage about how the industry uses beef trimmings to concoct a filler commonly used in ground beef.

On the one hand, the  beef industry and the Food and Drug Administration call  it a safe meat filler that’s been treated with ammonia to kill bacteria. On the other hand, opponents of the stuff spoke out against it, calling it pink slime and showing videos of how it’s made, resulting in many grossed-out consumers.

BPI claims ABC damaged the company by misleading consumers into thinking that its product is unhealthy and unsafe, and wants $1.2 billion in damages, reports the Associated Press.

“ABC never hinted that this is unsafe,” an attorney for ABC says, adding that its broadcasts always started with a statement from the FDA saying the product is safe to eat. “ABC never quoted critics saying it is unsafe.”

He also points out that the phrase “pink slime” isn’t incorrect on its face — all lean, finely textured beef
is pink and it also has a slimy texture. BPI can’t just tell ABC which words to use, he says. Slimy is as slimy does.

Those statements from the FDA weren’t enough, claims BPI’s attorney, who said including them is one thing, but when combined with what the company says is negative context — calling it “filler” or “not meat” in a series of broadcasts — it made it seem ABC was implying that the FDA didn’t know what it was on about. At least, according to BPI.

“This was not an off-the-cuff remark or a one-time incident,” BPI’s lawyer says.

A circuit court judge has said she’ll issue a written ruling on the topic, but hasn’t said when that will happen. The case originally started out in South Dakota, then moved to federal court before bopping back to land in South Dakota, BPI’s home state.

ABC asks judge to throw out ‘pink slime’ lawsuit [Associated Press]