Beef Products lodges £730m lawsuit following Jamie Oliver show

Posted on 17 Sep 2012

US manufacturer Beef Products has filed a lawsuit against TV network ABC after celebrity chef Jamie Oliver branded its product ‘pink slime’ in criticism of the quality of the meat used in its lean beef.

Beef Products stated that it will seek damages from the broadcaster and three ABC news reporters for knowingly and intentionally publishing false and disparaging statements about the lean finely textured beef it makes.

The company released a statement saying that more than 700 jobs have been lost and three facilities have had to close as a result of the damage caused to its reputation by the programme.

The show, called Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, gave a shock to the American public in a similar fashion to his four-part UK documentary School Dinners, which took on the way products such as Turkey Twizzlers were made, forcing the Government into health improvements in British schools.

In Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, the British chef shows how much of America’s ground beef contains leftover cow parts that a butcher on the show labels ‘s**t.’

“In this form this is inedible,” says Oliver – holding an example of the meat that undergoes a process before being eaten in American schools.

“It is full from anything from salmonella to e.coli,” he adds, much to the shock of his audience, saying that the meat is from the cavity where the guts are.

Beef Products alleges that ABC and others launched a concerted disinformation campaign against the companies, which had a significant adverse affect on its reputation, as well as a significant negative financial impact on the companies.

“This is not fit for human consumption,” Oliver said, before likening production methods to a washing machine that splits the fat and the meat before it is washed in ammonia that he says most people lock away from their children in the home.

“[This] kills the e.coli and salmonella, drain and mince it,” said Oliver, before continuing to say that what companies are doing is: “Taking a product that would be sold at cheapest form for dogs and give it to humans.”

Beef Products argues that statements were made even after it and others sent ABC factual information about lean finely textured beef, including conclusions from US Department of Agriculture, US Food and Drug Administration and food safety organisations that the product is safe and nutritious.

“We’ve created thousands of good jobs for Americans and our lean finely textured beef has made the leaner ground beef that consumers desire more affordable,” said Eldon Roth, founder and CEO of Beef Products. “The blatantly false and disparaging statements made about our lean beef have done more than hurt my family and our companies, they have jeopardised the future of our employees and their families.”

As result of the Jamie Oliver’s campaign, sales at Beef Products declined from approximately five million pounds (in weight) of lean finely textured beef per week to less than two million pounds each week, forcing the closure of the three facilities and loss of 700 employees.

“Through nearly 200 false, misleading and defamatory statements, repeated continuously during a month-long disinformation campaign, ABC and other individuals knowingly misled consumers into believing that LFTB was not beef and not safe for public consumption, which is completely false,” said Dan Webb, chairman of Winston & Strawn LLP.

“Beef Products has filed suit because their business has been severely damaged by this conduct. As a result, we will be asking a jury to award Beef Products over one billion dollars in compensatory and statutory damages, plus punitive damages.”

Beef Products seeks to recover damages for defamation, product and food disparagement, and interference with business relationships.