What’s in a name? Beef Products Inc (BPI) is suing ABC News for $1.2 billion, claiming economic damage from the network’s use of the words “pink slime” to describe the mass of connective tissue ground together, washed in ammonia, and dyed to look like ground beef. South-Dakota based BPI uses the stuff as a filler to stretch out ground beef.
Used to use. BPI has stopped production of its cheap filler at three major plants. Its main customers, big supermarket chains like Safeway and Supervalu, won’t buy ground beef containing it. A successful social media campaign got beef with pink slime out of school lunches. The McDonald’s, Burger King and Taco Bell food chains refuse to use it. Lashing out at any culprit, and protected by a state law that allows agricultural companies to sue when their products are criticized, BPI claims that ABC News’s coverage has set the public mind against their beef. Nobody’s buying it anymore.
Another mega-producer of ground beef, AFA has filed for bankruptcy, citing “recent changes in the market” for its products. They also lay the blame on media coverage related to the filler.
The producers of pink slime made it known as “finely textured beef.” Sounds innocuous enough. People might have continued buying meat stretched out with the sludge if food activists hadn’t taken up the descriptive name given by USDA microbiologist, Gerald Zirnstein in 2002, and made public what’s in it. But BPI and AFA Foods continue insisting that pink slime is edible and safe.
Interesting to follow who’s blaming who in this scandal. BPI blames ABC News for using a derogatory name. But ABC, among others, was simply reporting. The public blames the mega beef producers for foisting on them a chemical-ridden substance disguised as food. Will BPI win the suit?