SIOUX FALLS, SD — Eldon Roth, president and owner of Beef Products Inc., dismissed as without a merit a lawsuit alleging tainted lean finely texture beef sickened and killed a Minnesota man.

The family of 62-year-old Robert Danell, who had Down’s syndrome, died of kidney failure after becoming ill from E. coli. Danell, of St. Cloud, Minn. was one of more than 20 people sickened by E. coli in 2009. He became ill with the foodborne pathogen in December of 2009 and died in June 2010. The family blames Danell's death on tainted LFTB made by BPI. Marler Clark, a Seattle law firm that specializes in foodborne illness litigation, filed the lawsuit Jan. 8. The suit names BPI and seven additional plaintiffs. Bill Marler outlined some aspects of the case in a blog posted Jan. 12.

In a letter, Roth defended BPI:

“For over 30 years we have dedicated ourselves to providing consumers with the safest, highest quality, lean beef. We employ rigorous food safety systems to include the most extensive finished product sampling/hold and test program in the industry. All our products sold to any ground beef processor would have tested negative for E. coli O157:H7. It is our understanding that the ground beef obtained from one of the individuals involved in the Minnesota Department of Health investigation and which contained LFTB was tested for the presence of E. coli O157:H7 and tested negative. Further, based upon the type of ground beef consumed in this case, we know that no trim from the facility alleged to be the source of the E. coli O157:H7 outbreak would have been included in the LFTB we sold to Tyson Fresh Meats. Obviously, no ground beef allegedly linked to any of the Minnesota illnesses ever tested positive or showed presence of E. coli O157:H7 or the producer would have implemented a recall.”

The lawsuit against BPI comes nearly four months after BPI filed a defamation lawsuit against ABC News. In that litigation, the company alleges the network’s news coverage misled consumers to believe LFTB was unsafe. BPI is seeking more than $1 billion in damages.