“If inaccurate information is being put out there by a news organization…it can cause tremendous damage”
Beef Products Inc. (BPI) has reached a settlement agreement with ABC News.
The beef company sued ABC and reporter Jim Avila for defamation after the network aired an investigative segment in 2012 calling a filler product used in ground beef “pink slime.” The complaint alleged omission of facts in addition to food-libel.
BPI claimed their business suffered an 80% loss in profits, forcing them to close three of four processing plants after the ABC report aired.
ABC argued BPI’s business was suffering before the reports and that the term “pink slime” was used well before their report aired, they also argued it was within their first amendment rights to air such a report.
What ABC called “pink slime” is a filler made up of beef trimmings, “and exposed to bursts of ammonium hydroxide to kill E. coli and other contaminants,” according to Reuters.
The trial, held in Elk Point, South Dakota, was expected to last eight weeks and began earlier this month.
Details of the settlement are confidential, according to Reuters:
BPI had claimed up to $1.9 billion in damages, which could have been tripled to $5.7 billion under South Dakota’s Agricultural Food Products Disparagement Act.
During its reports, ABC used the term “pink slime” more than 350 times across six different media platforms including TV and online, Webb said during opening statements on June 5.
In the aftermath of ABC’s broadcasts, BPI closed three of its four processing plants and said its revenue dropped 80 percent to $130 million. The company had around 1,300 employees before the reports. Some 700 were let go shortly after, Erik Connolly, a BPI attorney, told Reuters on Wednesday.
“If inaccurate information is being put out there by a news organization, particularly one with a powerful reach, it can cause tremendous damage,” he said. “There are real consequences to that for real people.”
ABC said in a statement:
“Throughout this case, we have maintained that our reports accurately presented the facts and views of knowledgeable people about this product.”
“Although we have concluded that continued litigation of this case is not in the company’s interests, we remain committed to the vigorous pursuit of truth and the consumer’s right to know about the products they purchase.”
The original news report is here:
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