• As previously covered on this blog, in the Spring of 2012, ABC News aired a series of reports on “Lean Finely Textured Beef” (LFTB), referring to the product as “pink slime.” The media coverage of LFTB and resulting consumer concern led many quick serve chains to discontinue using beef that contains LFTB. In addition, over 220,000 people signed an online petition calling on the USDA to stop using LFTB in the federal school lunch program. Many beef producers and politicians in states with significant beef industries called ABC’s coverage of LFTB a smear campaign, and Beef Products Inc. (BPI), the South Dakota-based company that manufactures LFTB, sued ABC News and reporter Jim Avila for $1.9 billion in a defamation suit related to that network’s series of Spring 2012 reports that referred to LFTB as “pink slime.”
  • Last week, on June 28, 2017, the parties announced that they had settled the case. The terms of the settlement have not been disclosed.
  • BPI said in statement that it was “extraordinarily pleased” to reach the settlement, which would give it “a strong foundation on which to grow the business” and that this “process” had helped establish that “lean finely textured beef” is “beef, and is safe, wholesome, and nutritious.”
  • ABC News has not retracted or apologized for its report, which remains available on its website, but noted that “continued litigation of this case [was] not in the company’s interest.” The fact that ABC News ultimately agreed to settle the case (likely due, in part, to the expense and time associated with the litigation) could indicate that, going forward, news networks will use more care in sticking to the facts and avoid sensationalizing reports about food and other consumer products so as to reduce the likelihood of facing similar defamation challenges.