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2 YEARS

ABC News Sued for $1.2 Billion Over Report on 'Pink Slime'

Beef manufacturer claims defamation in March report that led to consumer uprising against a processed beef product.

Diane Sawyer
Ida Mae Astute/ABC
Diane Sawyer

ABC has been hit with a $1.2 billion lawsuit over "pink slime."

Beef Products Inc., a South Dakota-based boneless-lean-beef giant, has sued the network as well as news anchor Diane Sawyer and several correspondents for news reports that allegedly have caused the company harm.

Until March, much of the ground beef in supermarkets, many restaurants and school lunches used a meat product some have called "pink slime," which includes the use of fillers and trimmings, plus ammonia to kill bacteria. Then, ABC featured it, leading to a big consumer backlash.

In the lawsuit, BPI says ABC News published hundreds of "false and misleading and defamatory" statements about the product and that it caused people to believe that it was unhealthy and unsafe.

The beef company says the reports have caused great damage, including the closure of three plants and 650 people laid off.

The lawsuit also targets Gerald Zirnstein, the USDA microbiologist who came up with the term "pink slime" and gave an interview to ABC.

"The lawsuit is without merit," ABC News senior vp Jeffrey Schneider said in a statement. "We will contest it vigorously."

This isn't the first time that someone has had a beef with how the meat industry has been portrayed.

In 2000, Oprah Winfrey escaped a defamation lawsuit from Texas cattle ranchers after she swore off burgers during a show about mad cow disease.