ABC News has been hit with a lawsuit that is no doubt leaving a bad taste in the news organization's mouth.
Beef Products, Inc. — the manufacturers of lean, finely textured beef (LFTB) — is suing ABC News over a series of reports on its product, which has infamously come to be known as "pink slime."
The manufacturer is seeking a meaty $1.2 billion from ABC.
According to the complaint, a March 7 report and subsequent stories on ABC News created the impression that LFTB is not actually beef and not safe for consumption. (The product is made from trimmings of various cuts of beef.)
BFI says that its business has declined considerably since reports surfaced that its product is heavily processed and treated with ammonia to combat bacteria. According to the company, its manufacturing of LFTB — its sole product — has fallen from 5 million to 2 million pounds, and three of its four plants have closed.
Prior to the reports, BFI had been a major supplier to fast-food restaurants and the National School Lunch Program.
The company's complaint claims that ABC News "knowingly and intentionally published nearly 200 false and disparaging statements and its product," including that it is a mere "filler" added to ground beef to "pump up" the volume, and that it would not do consumers "any good."
The suit also claims that ABC News' allegedly false statements "were intended to create a consumer backlash."
"[ABC] did this with malice, and they knew what they were doing," the company's attorney Dan Webb told reporters at a press conference at the company's headquarters in South Dakota Thursday. "They decided to destroy this business… and they decimated the product in the marketplace."
ABC News denied Thursday that its reports defamed BFI.
“The lawsuit is without merit," ABC News senior vice president Jeffrey W. Schneider said in a statement. "We will contest it vigorously.”
The suit is reminiscent of a lawsuit filed by a group of Texas cattlemen against talk-show host Oprah Winfrey, after Winfrey ran a segment on mad cow disease and declared that she would never eat a hamburger again, which the cattlemen claimed had injured their business. In that case, a jury sided with Winfrey.
Pamela Chelin contributed to this report.