It wasn’t pink slime then, and it definitely isn’t now. But still, the damage against South Dakota-based Beef Products Inc. was already done.
Today, it was announced that ABC is going to have to pay for that slanderous term, likely in a big way. The television network has decided to settle the lawsuit brought on by BPI over the company’s lean finely textured beef product (LFTB), which ABC referred to as “pink slime.” The lawsuit said that ABC led viewers to believe that the product was unsafe, despite all evidence supporting the food’s safety. As result of ABC’s disinformation campaign, BPI sales declined from approximately 5 million pounds of LFTB per week to less than 2 million pounds per week, three BPI facilities have closed, and more than 700 employees lost their jobs.
Opening statements in the trial had already begun, and ABC obviously felt that it was going to lose the case or that it was simply too costly to move forward. Under South Dakota’s Agricultural Food Products Disparagement Act, there’s the possibility of trebled statutory damages, which could have brought the potential verdict to $5.7 billion — a total that doesn’t even include possible punitive damages.
ABC spokeswoman Julie Townsend said in a statement on Wednesday that the network continues to believe that it acted properly based on the information that it had. It’s unclear whether a jury would have agreed.
“Through this process, we have again established what we all know to be true about Lean Finely Textured Beef: it is beef, and is safe, wholesome, and nutritious,” BPI said in the statement. “This agreement provides us with a strong foundation on which to grow the business, while allowing us to remain focused on achieving the vision of the Roth and BPI family.”
The terms of the settlement were not disclosed.