"Pink Slime" at Center of Author's Suit Against ABC, Network Chef Oliver

Thursday, 13 Dec 2012 12:02 PM

By Michael Mullins

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The author of online book “Pink Slime Ate My Job” is suing ABC News and network chef Jamie Oliver, claiming he and 800 others lost their jobs following ABC’s coverage earlier this year of the meat additive called finely textured beef — dubbed “pink slime.”

In the civil complaint filed on Tuesday, Bruce Smith, 58, is seeking $70,000 in damages after having lost his job allegedly due to “the dissemination of untrue facts and misinformation by the defendants.”

The 58-year-old former environmental health and safety director for Beef Products Incorporated, a South Dakota-based meat processing plant that reduced its workforce by 800 employees after multiple news reports about “pink slime,” led by ABC News, were aired in March and hurt its bottom line.

Smith lost his job in May and released his online book on Amazon two months later. A paperback version is supposed to be coming soon.

ABC News has yet to respond to the lawsuit, though ABC food blogger Bettina Siegel, who along with ABC journalists Diane Sawyer and Jim Avila were named as defendants in the suit, says she's “confident the First Amendment protects the rights of all Americans, including bloggers like myself, against meritless attempts at censorship like this one.”

In addition to criticizing the network’s coverage as a whole, the suit zeroes in on Oliver.

“Defendant Oliver proceeded to use his celebrity chef media notoriety to place pressure on American fast food company McDonald's, and others, to immediately stop using LFTB ground beef in its retail menu food products,” says the filing.

Prior to the controversial news reports, LFTB, which is a processed beef product used as a food additive to ground beef and beef-based processed meats, was used in approximately 70 percent of all ground beef mixes nationwide, according to the suit.

Following the reports about LFTB, multiple school districts, super market chains and fast food companies, including McDonald’s, announced publicly they would stop using ground beef that contained LFTB.

Originally used in pet food and cooking oil, LFTB was approved by the United States Department of Agriculture for human consumption in 2001. LFTB is used as an additive because it’s cheaper than 100 percent ground beef.

To quell concerns apparently caused by the news reports, Under Secretary for Food Safety Dr. Elisabeth Hagen reassured citizens that LFTB is safe on her blog in March.

Smith’s lawsuit is the second one filed against ABC over the “pink slime” issue in recent months.

In September, BPI filed its own defamation lawsuit against the network for $1.2 billion, claiming the network had misled consumers giving them the impression that the product was unsafe and unhealthy.

In November, the network asked a South Dakota federal judge to dismiss the case, which ABC News Senior Vice President Jeffrey Schneider said has no merit.

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