Five food writers have been subpoenaed by the legal council for several meat producers as part of their $1.2 billion defamation lawsuit against ABC for the network's use of the phrase "pink slime" when referring to what the producer calls "lean, finely textured beef." According to the Associated Press, three reporters for the website Food Safety News, New York Times reporter Michael Moss, and food writer Michel Simon were all asked to "supply copies of any communications they had with ABC in 2012."
Beef Products Inc. is claiming that ABC's "negative reportage" caused 700 layoffs and the closure of three plants. The meat producer is attempting to argue that ABC intentionally wanted to damage the company's reputation. According to attorneys for ABC, each broadcast related to "pink slime" noted that the USDA "deemed the product safe to eat" and that while "pink slime" isn't the most appealing phrase it's accurate, because like "all ground beef, it's pink and has a slimly texture."
Reps for ABC have declined to comment and the NYT notes that the subpoena for Moss has been stayed. An attorney for Food Safety News said that the subpoenas were "overreaching" and that the website would "fight the requests." Beef Products Inc. are also trying to subpoena two food-safety research labs and a "blogger who has written about the meat product." The defamation lawsuit also names ABC news anchor Diane Sawyer, correspondents Jim Avila and David Kerley, and Gerald Zirnstein — the USDA microbiologist who coined the term "pink slime" — amongst many others.