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A code for food bloggers?

hildebrandt-amber-52.jpg
by Amber Hildebrandt, CBCNews.ca

When two Los Angeles-based food bloggers met for breakfast to talk about ethics, they knew not the firestorm they would soon ignite.

Following the Tuesday morning conversation between Leah Greenstein of SpicySaltySweet and Brooke Barton of Food Woolf, the wheels were set in motion for a food blog code of ethics.

Several days later, they posted their manifesto on a newly created blog for all to see. Within hours, hundreds of people had visited the site, the New York Times had blogged about it and plenty were commenting on it.

"The Code" was essentially a set of guidelines for bloggers to follow, if they so chose, and it called for bloggers to be held accountable for their posts by revealing conflicts of interest, making sure information was accurate and respecting copyright rules for photos and other content.

In the post-FBCE era, as Greenstein calls it, she wrote in her blog that the idea stemmed from frustration over lack of clarity on food blogs. With publications she knew what standards and bias to expect, but the same was not true for blogs: Was the product supplied to the writer for free, for example? Was the review based on multiple experiences?

"I started reading commentary about blogs, nasty tirades about amateurs and hacks. I stumbled across stories about Yelpers blackmailing restaurants to get free food or risk getting panned. I learned more and more about people getting plagiarized, their images getting lifted, and people who personally attacked chefs in their reviews, but then didn’t have the courage to put their names on what they wrote," writes Greenstein.

A code of ethics for food bloggers is apparently not a new idea. As Greenstein's and Barton's efforts went viral, eGullet Society for Culinary Arts and Letters came forward to say it too had been working for more than a year on such a standard and rushed to release it shortly after.

EGullet proposed a voluntary code of ethics that was quite similar and included:

  • Original content unless clearly attributed.

  • No quid pro quo.

  • Free and fair comment allowed as long as it remains civil and conforms to website's rules.

As a journalist, these guidelines ring familiar. But aside from even the insurmountable task of enforcing such standards among adherents, the question remains whether the world wide web of food bloggers should be held accountable?

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About the blog

From trends and culture to politics and nutrition, Food Bytes serves up tasty tidbits about food and the issues surrounding it that flavour our everyday lives.

About the writers

Amber Hildebrandt Amber Hildebrandt writes for CBCNews.ca in Toronto. Growing up on a farm in Manitoba, she acquired an insatiable appetite, but it was during a stint in Japan that she developed her discerning tastebuds and "foodie" ways.

Andrea Chiu Andrea Chiu is an associate producer at CBC Radio Digital. Though she loves to eat, cook and discuss food, don't ask her to bake. It never turns out well. She tweets as @TOfoodie on Twitter and organizes food and wine events in Toronto called FoodieMeet.

Tara Kimura Tara Kimura is the consumer life reporter for CBCNews.ca, covering a wide range of issues that range from rising food costs and the growing organic movement, to new trends in the marketplace.

Andree Lau Andree Lau is a CBC web reporter in Calgary. Her journalism career includes seven years as a CBC-TV reporter. Her own blog called "are you gonna eat that?" chronicles her eating adventures (including sampling snake and camel hoof tendon).

Jessica Wong Jessica Wong is a CBCNews.ca writer who loves to eat and cook, as well as discuss, read and watch programming about food, sometimes all at once.

Kevin Yarr Kevin Yarr, CBCNews.ca's writer in Prince Edward Island, wrote about food and beer for national and regional magazines before joining the CBC. He acquired a desire for new tastes on his first trip to Europe, and an appreciation of eating locally and in season when he finally settled down on P.E.I.

Elizabeth Bridge Elizabeth Bridge is a writer with the CBC Digital Archives in Toronto. She first ventured into the kitchen as a child to indulge a sweet tooth by baking cookies and making fudge. A student budget compelled her to be a vegetarian (for a while) and instilled in her an ongoing curiosity about food and cooking.

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