South Dakota meat processor Beef Products Inc. alleges ABC erroneously reported that its beef product, dubbed “pink slime” by critics, was unsafe, not healthy and not even meat, costing it hundreds of millions of dollars in lost profits. The reports aired in March and April. Along with ABC, six people are named in the suit filed in a South Dakota state court, including ABC News anchor Diane Sawyer and reporters Jim Avila and David Kerley. Gerald Zirnstein, a former U.S. Department of Agriculture microbiologist, who appeared in the ABC reports also is named as a defendant. Zirnstein had used the term “pink slime” in a 2002 email to coworkers after touring a Beef Products plant. His email was later released to The New York Times. “The lawsuit is without merit,” Jeffrey Schneider, senior vice president of ABC News, a unit of Walt Disney Co, said in a statement released to several news organizations. “We will contest it vigorously.” Beef Products is seeking $1.2 billion in damages.
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