ABC, meat producer settle in $1.9B ‘pink slime’ libel suit

ABC and a South Dakota meat producer announced a settlement Wednesday in a $1.9 billion lawsuit against the network over its reports on a beef product that critics dubbed “pink slime.”

The terms of the settlement including its amount are confidential. Dakota Dunes-based Beef Products Inc. sued ABC in 2012, saying ABC’s coverage misled consumers into believing the product is unsafe, is not beef and isn’t nutritious. ABC spokeswoman Julie Townsend said in a statement Wednesday that throughout the case the network has maintained its reports accurately presented the facts and views of “knowledgeable people” about the 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,” Townsend said.

The coverage emphasized that the product at the time was present in 70 percent of the ground beef sold in supermarkets, but wasn’t labeled. BPI and its family owners said in a statement Wednesday that the lawsuit was difficult, but necessary to start rectifying the harm suffered as a result of ABC’s reports on lean, finely textured beef.

After the reports aired, some grocery store chains said they would stop carrying ground beef that contained the product. BPI claimed in the 2012 complaint that sales declined from about 5 million pounds (2.3 million kilograms) per week to less than 2 million pounds (907,000 kilograms) per week.

BPI has said the sales drop forced it to close plants in Iowa, Kansas and Texas and lay off more than 700 workers. Only a Nebraska plant in South Sioux City remained open.

“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 company and family said in their statement.

BPI lawyer Erik Connolly said the trial and settlement were opportunities for the company…

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