A major U.S. beef processing company is suing ABC News for $1.2 billion -- claiming the network's coverage of a product called "pink slime" has duped consumers into believing it's unhealthy and unsafe.
The company behind the lawsuit is Beef Products Inc. -- which claims ABC News made somewhere around 200 "false and misleading and defamatory" statements about the product ... which BPI refers to as lean, finely textured beef.
In one report, ABC featured a former USDA scientist who claimed 70% of the ground beef found in supermarkets contains pink slime ... "beef trimmings that were once used only in dog food and cooking oil, now sprayed with ammonia to make them safe to eat and then added to most ground beef as a cheaper filler."
An attorney for BPI told the AP ... "[The ABC News reports have] caused consumers to believe that our lean beef is not beef at all -- that it's an unhealthy pink slime, unsafe for public consumption, and that somehow it got hidden in the meat."
A rep for ABC insists "The lawsuit is without merit" ... adding, "We will contest it vigorously."
According to the AP, a BPI rep says the ABC reports have had an "enormous impact" on the company -- with 3 of it's 4 plants shutting down since the stories hit the air ... resulting in a loss of 650 jobs.