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BPI sues ABC News for ‘pink slime’ defamation

NORTH SIOUX CITY, S.D. — Beef Products Inc. has sued ABC News Inc., alleging defamation from its coverage of a meat product critics dub ‘‘pink slime.’’ It claims the network damaged the company by misleading consumers into believing it is unhealthy and unsafe.

The meat processor is seeking $1.2 billion in damages for 200 ‘‘false and misleading and defamatory’’ statements about its lean, finely textured beef.

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The reporting ‘‘caused consumers to believe that our lean beef is not beef at all — that it’s an unhealthy pink slime, unsafe for public consumption, and that somehow it got hidden in the meat,’’ said Dan Webb, lawyer for the company.

ABC News said the lawsuit is without merit.

The lawsuit also names Gerald Zirnstein, the US Department of Agricultre microbiologist who named the product ‘‘pink slime.’’

Tthough several news organizations used the term ‘‘pink slime,’’ Webb said ABC was sued for attacking the company ‘‘night after night’’; it was forced to close three of its four US plants and lay off 700 workers.

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