Two former USDA scientists testify in BPI lawsuit against ABC Ne - KTIV News 4 Sioux City IA: News, Weather and Sports

Two former USDA scientists testify in BPI lawsuit against ABC News


The two scientists, who were cited as sources in ABC's reports about BPI's product "lean finely textured beef" have testified in BPI's $1.9-billion defamation suit against the network.

Both witnesses stood behind the statements they made to reporter Jim Avila back in 2012. 

Gerald Zirnstein and Carl Custer both have worked at the USDA as microbiologists and safety experts. 

Zirnstein was the man given credit with coining the two-word derogatory term used by ABC to describe LFTB. However, he claims he got the idea from a BPI tech while Zirnstein toured BPI's Kansas processing plant in March of 2002. "It looks pink," Zirnstein said. "He said the way to control it, is uncontrollable unless it is frozen on a drone with liquid nitrogen. He said it was a goop, and was a emulsified product and a goop."  

Zirnstein did not work at the USDA at the time that LFTB was approved to be in ground beef. He states that LFTB is not meat because it has a different composition. Zirnstein claims it was a "bad call" by the USDA to allow the product in ground beef and hamburger without a label.  However, it could be allowed in beef patties because it has a similar composition as partially defatted beef fatty tissue. 

Another witness, Carl Custer, worked at the USDA from 1972 till he retired in 2007.

1990 was the year BPI tried to get their product-- then known as "fat reduced beef"-- approved by the USDA. Custer worked on the safety inspection of the product and thought it shouldn't be allowed in ground beef or hamburger.  He backed up his testimony saying the product now known as LFTB is not beef, but a by-product.

Custer called the approval of LFTB by the undersecretary Jo Ann Smith "political." "They had decided to promote pro-industry decision rather than follow the USDA guidelines," said Custer. "Did you personally believe Jo Ann Smith approved this product [LFTB] because of her ties to the meat industry," ask Dan Webb, BPI attorney. "Yes," said Custer.

Custer testified that he was familiar with the two-word derogatory term to described LFTB because it was popularized prior to 2012 in The Daily and New York Times article. 

In the last session, Thursday, we heard a video deposition from Kit Foshee. He is a former BPI employee that spoke about LFTB to Jim Avila in March of 2012.  Foshee had worked at BPI for 10 years before he was fired in 2001, which sparked a lawsuit with BPI and the Roths.

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