DAKOTA DUNES | Beef Products Inc., which blamed a "widespread campaign of misinformation" on a consumer backlash against its signature lean beef trimmings earlier this year, has retained a top international law firm to file a defamation lawsuit against an unnamed defendant.
BPI has called a news conference for 10 a.m. Thursday to announce details of what it described as a "major lawsuit," in an media advisory Wednesday afternoon.
A company spokesman refused Wednesday to answer any questions about the suit, including the target or targets, prior to the news conference, which will be held at BPI's Dakota Dunes headquarters.
Craig Letch, BPI director of food safety and quality assurance, and Dan Webb, chairman of Winston & Strawn LLP, will address reporters, according to the advisory.
Webb, a former U.S. attorney, is known for his involvement in high-profile political and business cases. As an independent prosecutor in the 1980s, he gained fame for his prosecution of retired Admiral John Poindexter as part of the Iran–Contra scandal. Web also defended former Illinois Gov. George Ryan at his corruption trial. He represented Microsoft in its anti-trust case, and Philip Morris in tobacco-related litigation.
Winston & Strawn is an global firm with nearly 1,000 attorneys in 15 offices around the globe, according to the firm's website.
Since the widespread controversy over its Lean Finely Textured Beef erupted in early March, BPI has struggled to restore public confidence in the product, which the company maintains are safe and nutritious and have been consumed for more than 30 years with no reports or illness or death.
A series of unflattering national news stories about the product, dubbed "pink slime" by critics, spread quickly on social media sites. Responding to worried parents and consumers, most U.S. school districts and many large supermarket chains and fast-food restaurants subsequently dropped beef that contained BPI’s trimmings, drying up more than 70 percent of the company’s sales.
In May, BPI permanently closed three of its four plants, eliminating more than 650 jobs, and also cut 86 positions at offices in Dakota Dunes and South Sioux City.
LFTB, which was found in as much as 70 percent of ground beef at its peak, is made from fatty scraps left over after cattle carcasses are cut into steaks or roasts. The bits of lean meat are heated and separated from the fat with a centrifuge before being treated with small amounts of ammonium hydroxide gas to kill E. coli and other potentially deadly pathogens.