‘Pink Slime’ lawsuit to continue in S.D. court
March 17, 2017
A South Dakota judge has ruled that Beef Products Inc. (BPI), will be allowed to continue with their "pink slime" lawsuit. BPI, based out of Dakota Dunes, South Dakota, is a family owned company that has been producing USDA-approved beef products for 46 years. In a news story in 2012, ABC News started used the term "pink slime" for lean, finely-textured beef, causing BPI's business partners to stop doing business with them, and ultimately, BPI closed three plants and laid off employees.
According to news reports, BPI is being allowed to continue their lawsuit against ABC News, reporters Jim Avila and David Kerley, and former U.S. Department of Agriculture microbiologist Gerald Zirnstein–who coined the phrase "pink slime"– for up to $6 billion dollars in damages to BPI. J. Eric Connolly, lawyer for BPI, claims that comments by ABC News achor Diane Sawyer cost BPI billions in damages, hundreds of jobs lost, and that ABC News had engaged in a disinformation campaign against a company that produces safe and nutritious beef. Sawyer has been removed from the lawsuit because, as an anchor, her involvement in research for stories is limited.
ABC News had requested the case be moved to federal court, but that request was denied. South Dakota has in place a food libel law, which allows companies to receive three times the initial damages if they can prove that their products were slandered.
Jenny Dewey Rorich, a farmer from North Dakota, said about the case, "Regardless of your stance regarding utilizing the product lean finely textured beef, bullying people out of their jobs is no way to 'win a victory' in our food system. I have never been a fan of bullying and fear tactics that is commonly seen throughout our food system in order for people to gain followers in their agendas. Especially when the product is proven safe as well as efficient. But, much to my dismay, it happens, way too often. I think if ABC loses this lawsuit it could set a precedent in the food industry and how the media represents the food we eat. And I hope other news outlets will take note of this lawsuit and think twice before they drag a safe product through the mud. On the other side of the coin, I have to praise the meat industry and agriculture in that since this has happened, I have seen so many more companies and individuals come forward to tell the story behind our food. An unfortunate way to propel people into it, but I'm thankful it is becoming more common."
Nick Andresen, cattle farmer from Iowa, said, "I think the lawsuit is particularly interesting at a time when the phrase 'fake news' is thrown around carelessly. ABC and Jim Avila being ordered to face the $6 billion defamation lawsuit should be a signal to media outlets that completing due diligence with regard to seeking the truth is an important part of reporting. I think BPI will prevail as ABC and Avila, in my opinion, did engage in purposeful avoidance with regard to seeking the truth in their investigation."
The trial is scheduled for June 5th of this year.