Legal and Ethical Issues in Food Blogging

While food blogging may be the home cooks preferred method for sharing their personal kitchen adventures they must be aware of the legal and ethical issues that are associated in the online world. A food blogger is, among other titles, a content creator and they are responsible for what they post even if they believe it to be only personal. The top issues food bloggers can encounter are regarding dispensing professional advice and violating copyright.

Certainly for food bloggers whose cuisine takes a healthy route, the idea of dispensing professional advice is a grey area. I found the Code of Ethics for Bloggers, Social Media and Content Creators, written by Morten Rand-Hendriksen, a staff author at Lynda.com and Director at a digital media company in Burnaby, BC. He based the code of ethics on the code published by the Norwegian Press Association.

Food bloggers attempting to promote a healthy lifestyle should heed the advice in part 5 and 4.1. These articles advise to always present your opinion as such and to not let it be confused with factual information or doctoral advice. It is common to see disclosures stating that their content is their opinion only and they can only attest that certain methods, diets, etc have helped them.

Another disclosure frequently seen is one that tells of potentially biased content. For example, when bloggers are given samples from companies and expected to blog about them, you could see this:

Screen Shot 2014-10-26 at 7.30.18 PM

These disclosures follow number six of the code, “State Your Allegiances to Stay Independent.” They advised that bias can completely discredit yourself unless you warn of these biases first.

Lastly, food bloggers inherently collect many recipes and cookbooks. Some new bloggers might want to try a recipe from their new Vietnamese cookbook and share the recipe and results online. Unfortunately, the publishers and writers of the book may not want that published as it can diminish the number of sales they receive. If there are multiple bloggers posting their recipes so consumers might not feel the need to purchase the book! As well, the book is protected by copyright so it would be illegal for the blogger to just copy the steps and recipe ingredients, even if giving credit. These same ideas go for original content shared online. The Kitchn, a website based around various culinary experiences suggests taking photos of the process, writing about the experience and posting a link to the original recipe.

Overall, there are many more legal and ethical issues a food blogger could encounter, but it is easy to find information to guide one in making the best possible choices as content creators.

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