"Is Your Food Safe? Bum Steer" - CBS - 48 Hours

"Is Your Food Safe? Bum Steer" - CBS - 48 Hours

by: | publication date: February 9, 1994 | Publication: CBS News |

Footage showed the employee's fellow workers in blatant, bacteria-spreading violations of the health code. One man sharpening his knife on the boning room floor, and then, without sterilizing it or even washing the blade, using it to cut into a piece of meat. Another worker lanced an abscess on a piece of meat and then hosed the spurted pus off the table without taking any precautions to keep the ooze away from a pile of freshly cut meat stacked beside it.

CBS "48 Hours" sent a worker into a Federal Beef Processors plant in South Dakota to film questionable practices with a hidden camera provided by the producers. The company immediately sought and got an injunction to stop CBS from airing the footage, charging that to make it public would divulge trade secrets and damage the local economy. CBS challenged the ruling, which the South Dakota Supreme Court upheld. CBS then appealed to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun, who very swiftly overturned the lower court judgment in an emergency ruling and allowed CBS to include the footage in its broadcast without delay. Blackmun refused to exercise prior restraint and argued that to block the network would “cause irreparable harm to the news media and is intolerable under the First Amendment.” The segment aired on February 9, 1994. It made the firm’s name public, ostensibly because of the company’s legal action, and caused the firing of the whistle-blowing employee.

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