Lawyers for the South Dakota meat processor at the center of a 2012 ABC News report referring to the company’s beef products as “pink slime” laid into the network on the first day of a $5.7 billion defamation trial.
“[The company’s] success took about 30 years to succeed, and it took ABC less than 30 days to severely damage the company,” Beef Products Inc’s attorney Dan Webb told the court today in Elk Point, SD, according to Reuters.
BPI originally sued ABC News, anchor Diane Sawyer, reporters Jim Avila and David Kerley and former U.S. Department of Agriculture microbiologist Gerald Zirnstein seeking $1.2 billion in damages after a series of 2012 broadcast reports on the company. It was Zirnstein who used the term “pink slime” to describe BP’s lean finely textured beef (LFTB) product in a 2002 email after touring a plant.
BPI ultimately had to shutter three plants and undergo layoffs at corporate headquarters.
The case is being closely watched; South Dakota’s strict food-libel laws could triple damages awarded in such cases.
According to Reuters, Webb said in court that ABC used the term “pink slime” more than 350 times on its platforms between March 7-April 3, 2012.
ABC lawyer Dane Butswinkas countered today that the network’s coverage was accurate.
“We believe in the principle that people deserve to know what’s in the food they eat and are confident that when all the facts are presented in court, ABC’s reporting will be fully vindicated,” an ABC spokesperson said.