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Lawsuit: Minn. man's death linked to 'pink slime' tainted with E. coli

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The family of a St. Cloud man who died of kidney failure shortly after eating ground beef is suing a South Dakota-based manufacturer, Beef Products, Inc., and seven other companies.

The New York Daily News reports 62-year-old Robert Danell was one of 25 people in 17 states sickened in a 2009 E. coli outbreak.

Danell had Down Syndrome and attended a day program at Opportunity Manor Group Home in St. Cloud where he ate a hamburger and Swedish meatballs shortly before he became ill in Dec. 2009. Both meals included beef from Tyson Foods that contained BPI's "lean finely textured beef” or ammonia-treated beef scraps known as "pink slime."

After enduring massive damage to his internal organs, Danell died at St. Cloud Hospital on Jan. 19, 2010.

According to the lawsuit, Minnesota Department of Health records show a Greeley, Colo. slaughter house operated by JBS Swift & Company sold beef trim to BPI.

BPI then processed the scraps into "lean finely textured beef” that is sprayed with ammonia to try to kill pathogens like E. coli and salmonella.

Molecular tests were able to link the E. coli strain that sickened people back to JBS.

Bill Marler of Marler Clark, a Seattle law firm that represents victims of foodborne illness, tells New York Daily News that he is "99.99 percent sure" that Danell's death was linked to the beef scraps BPI sold to Tyson.

The suit lists BPI, JBS, Tyson and and a handful of other companies. Marler tells KMEG that the lawsuit isn't targeting just BPI, but the entire chain of distribution.

BPI representatives say the case "lacks merit" and the company will aggressively defend against such action.

In a statement issued Tuesday, Tyson said, "We do not believe our beef operations were the source of the illness that led to Mr. Danell's unfortunate death. In fact, Minnesota state health officials reported they were not able to conclusively determine the ultimate source."

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