By GRANT SCHULTEAssociated Press
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - Beef Products Inc. plans to file a defamation lawsuit in the wake of a publicity storm over a meat product that critics have dubbed "pink slime."
The Dakota Dunes, S.D.-based company said Wednesday that it will announce a lawsuit Thursday. A company executive and lawyer refused to name the defendant.
Company officials have long insisted that the product is safe and healthy, and blamed the closure of three plants and roughly 700 layoffs on what they viewed as a smear campaign.
The lean, textured beef trimmings were the subject of many media reports earlier this year, and also have drawn comments from television chefs and food commentators. The term "pink slime" was coined by a former U.S. Department of Agriculture microbiologist.
BPI has declined to discuss how much it has lost in sales, but acknowledged it took a "substantial" hit after social media erupted with worry over the product and an online petition seeking its ouster from schools drew hundreds of thousands of supporters.
Critics worried about the way the meat is processed - bits of beef are heated and treated with a small amount of ammonia to kill bacteria. The filler has been used for years and meets federal food safety standards.
The company has won public backing from multiple governors, including Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad and Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman.
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