SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — Celebrity chef and restaurant owner Jamie Oliver is among a list of defendants named in a lawsuit, due to statements about a product that was dubbed “pink slime” in the media. The lawsuit has been launched by a laid-off worker at a U.S. beef processing plant.
At the centre of the controversy is a product the beef-processing industry calls, “Lean Finely Textured Beef “(LFTB). However, a recent ABC News segment referred to the product as “pink slime,” a term that first gained traction after a New York Times story in 2009.
The plaintiff, Bruce Smith, is one of approximately 750 people fired by the South Dakota-based Beef Products Inc., (BPI) maker of LFTB, after social media and news reports gave the product negative exposure; he is seeking $70,000 in damages. The lawsuit charges there was “the dissemination of untrue facts and misinformation” about Lean Finely Textured Beef (LFTB) and argues the defendants “engaged in negligent, wilful and reckless behaviour” against BPI.
LFTB is beef trimmings and fat heated at low temperature, centrifuged to extract excess fat and then sprayed with ammonia gas to kill bacteria. The product has been called a cost-saving filler and reportedly 70 per cent of ground beef in supermarkets contains LFTB. U.S. federal regulators approved the beef ingredient, saying it met food-safety standards, but several critics, including chef Oliver, went on record calling LFTB unappetizing and possibly unsafe.
The lawsuit names American Broadcasting Companies, Inc., ABC News, journalists Diane Sawyer and Jim Avila, chef Oliver, food blogger Bettina Siegel and 10 others. Neither ABC News nor Jamie Oliver have commented on Smith’s lawsuit.