A former worker at Beef Products Inc, the company at the forefront of a series of ABC News reports that said its meat was unsafe — turning the term “pink slime” into a pop culture hit — is suing the network, TV chef Jamie Oliver a food blogger and 10 unnamed defendants, saying the reports and their wake cost hm his job. Bruce Smith was chief counsel and director of environmental health and safety at a South Dakota-based processing plant, and was one of 750 co-workers eventually let go after the reports said company’s meat was not healthy and not even meat — former U.S. Department of Agriculture microbiologist Gerald Zirnstein used the term “pink slime” in a 2002 email after touring a Beef Products plant. Fast food chains soon began severing ties with the company, ultimately resulting in three plants being shuttered and layoffs at corporate headquarters.
Beef Products sued ABC News, anchor Diane Sawyer, reporters Jim Avila and David Kerley, and Zirnstein in September seeking $1.2 billion in damages, an action ABC News says is “without merit”. Smith’s civil suit filed Tuesday in Dakota County District Court in Nebraska is against ABC News, Sawyer, Avila, Oliver and others seeking $70,000. He claims ABC News made untrue statements about the meat product on air, that Oliver used his TV show and social media to target the company, and food blogger Bettina Siegel used her campaign to start a petition drive to get the meat removed from the National School Lunch Program. Siegel told the Associated Press she believed she was protected by the First Amendment.
Smith said he’s only suing for $70K to keep the case in state court. “If I sued for more, I would likely be forced to move the case to federal court in Omaha, Neb. I want the people I have sued … I want them here in the locality where the damage is done”, he told the AP. “And if that means not suing for everything I can, so be it.”