Hearings for a $5.7 billion lawsuit against ABC News for defamation began this week. The problem? Back in 2012, ABC News and other major news outlets reported on “lean finely textured beef,” also known as “pink slime,” questioning how safe the practice was for our food – especially considering that many fast food and other ground beef products contained it and most consumers had no idea. One of the companies that produced it, Beef Products, Inc., wasn’t happy about the reporting. But the lengths BPI went through to protect their bottom lines were astonishing.
Our assistant director Patty Lovera appeared on ABC World News Tonight in 2012 to talk about whether or not pink slime should be disclosed on food labels. Two years later, in 2014, she received a subpoena to turn over all communications she had with the the network for an entire year, but on the advice of Food & Water Watch legal counsel, decided not to since the request was overly broad.
In October 2015, Patty was deposed in the lawsuit, bombarded for almost an entire day with questions from BPI’s lawyers. Her takeaway from that questioning was this: the lawsuit is a thinly veiled attempt to make an example of ABC news and anyone else trying to report on food safety issues or let consumers know what is going into their food.
This lawsuit obviously has disturbing implications for the future of media coverage, especially on food issues. And with the media already under constant attack by the current administration, we need to be ready to stand strong and do our part to expose dangerous food industry practices any way that we can – through our research, local work, and relentless coverage of an industry that regularly puts profits before safety. We’ll need your help to do this – but together we can make sure we have a transparent, safe food system.