The old saying “If you find yourself in a hole, quit digging” couldn’t be more apt in the latest development in the pink slime story.
BPI, makers of the ammonia-treated processed beef product made from carcass scraps, is suing ABC News for more than $1 billion after the network did a story about the product. BPI claims that ABC made false statements about the product being harmful, and now no one wants the product. They’ve shut down three of their four plants and let go hundreds of workers.
While I have the deepest sympathy for the laid-off workers, I think BPI needs to look in the mirror to confront the party responsible for its pending demise. This company reportedly spent millions on lobbyists to prevent the government from requiring labeling for products containing pink slime. ABC (and many other news outlets, though ABC is the only one targeted in the suit) merely pointed it out. Consumers were in turn disgusted and angry – not because the product was condemned for health reasons but because the company purposely deceived people about what was in their food.
When this story first broke, I wrote a post that lying to people isn’t a great strategy in business or in life. Smart PR next steps would have been to work WITH the media to 1.)sincerely apologize for the deception; 2.) educate consumers about the safety of the product; and 3.) rebuild trust by insisting on label transparency from here on out. Instead, BPI has decided to take the lowest road possible and blame their problems on the folks who exposed them. Think anyone will ever trust this company again?
BPI, step away from the shovel.