Food Blog Code of Ethics

We hold ourselves to a higher code

Tag: Leah Greenstein

Food Blog Code of Ethics 2.0

It’s been more than two years since the Food Blog Code of Ethics made its debut on the Internet. Our little manifesto–a written record of two people standing up for a basic set of principles in food blogging–was read by thousands in just hours and millions by the end of our first month of posting it.

We were some of the first food bloggers to suggest that we hold ourselves to a code of “journalistic” ethics. Our call for responsible online publishing hit a nerve. While many praised our declaration of a code, others openly reviled us for our lengthy manifesto that encouraged applying traditional journalism’s ethical principles to the wily world of online food writing.  We were called fascists, dictators, and gutsy visionaries.

After spending much time responding to debate and comment, we decided to leave our manifesto to speak for itself. We saw our statement of fundamental principles as something that’s unchanging, and did not necessitate constant updates every couple of days.

It is important, however, to stay current. So for that reason, we believe it’s time to make a few adjustments to our manifesto.

1. We added “commenters” to our manifesto because, like bloggers and websites, people who write comments publish their opinions and should be aware that they are accountable for their actions. And based on the rapid increase of hateful and threatening comments on the internet, we think it’s important that even the anonymous individuals who sling abuse realize that they will be held accountable for their threats by organizations far more powerful than ethically minded individuals.

2. We’re gonna keep it short this time.


  1. We understand that the moment we put anything up on the internet (a blog, restaurant reviews, recipes, videos, photography, and comments) we automatically become a publisher and therefore have the responsibility of a publisher.
  2. We accept the responsibilities that come with publishing. We will be accountable for our actions.
  3. We will be civil.
  4. We will be transparent. We will disclose gifts, comps, samples, and financial relationships with specific businesses if we write about them.
  5. We will not steal other people’s work. Other peoples’ content (writing, recipes, photos, video, illustrations) will not be taken or used without written or verbal consent from the creator of said material. If we use someone else’s material and change it for our own use (i.e. a recipe) we will give attribution to the original resource.

Food Ethics in the Columbia Journalism Review

It’s been nine months since we–Leah Greenstein, and Brooke Burton–created Food Ethics and our controversial Food Blog Code of Ethics. In those months, much has happened here in the world of online food writing and criticism. The Federal Trade Commission has made it punishable by law for big (and little) companies to give money and gifts to bloggers without being transparent about it. One blog offers badges to denote a commitment to honesty and integrity. Blogs that once skirted the issue of freebies and comps, now openly state their affiliations, biases, and disclose freebies.

When we first decided to write our statement of purpose nine months ago—for the sake of being clear on what we stood for in online writing—the topic of ethics in the blogosphere was something that was whispered between online writers. Many had opinions, but few were willing to publish their thoughts on the matter. So, when we decided it was time we write out our five-point manifesto on food blog ethics, our words and point of view caused a lot of controversy. We were shocked at how many people got engaged (and enraged) and suddenly everyone was talking about ethics. In a time when most people were interested in new iPhone apps and the birth of Twitter, we were ecstatic that we were surrounded by people arguing about philosophy. Getting people to think about the effect of their words before they hit PUBLISH was our goal.

So it was with great pleasure that we discovered Food Ethics was mentioned by Robert Seitsema, the author and food critic for the Village Voice in his comprehensive Columbia Journalism Review article, “Everyone Eats…But that doesn’t make you a restaurant critic”. In it, he masterfully charts the history of restaurant reviewing in the United States since the 1970’s and the effect of a handful of people on food writing.

 Continue to Read More about Food Blog Ethics in Columbia Journalism Review »

Continue to Read More about The CJR Article »

Federal Trade Commission and the Food Blog Code of Ethics

A lot has happened since we launched the Food Blog Code of Ethics. Discussions about blogging ethics have sprung up across the Internet, prompting bloggers of all stripes to voice their opinions. Some claimed the blogosphere was the Wild West and thrived on lawlessness, others suggested a need for regulations.

Blogging Gets Its Hand Slapped

But the biggest change came in October 2009, when the Federal Trade Commission decided it was time to update its rules regarding endorsements and testimonials, a document written long before online content existed, let alone required regulation. With print magazines and newspapers failing left and right and untraditional marketing opportunities springing up on blogs and in social media, the Federal Trade Commission realized it was time to create clear guidelines for businesses looking to establish relationships with online publishers.

“Endorsements in print ads or on television are clear, because it is obviously the company’s advertisement,’’ says Mary Engle, the FTC’s associate director of consumer protection. “It became very clear to us when we began our regular periodic review of guides in 2007 that because of all the social media going on we’d need to update them.’’

According to the FTC’s updated stance: bloggers, Twitterers and other online reviewers are now required to disclose their “material connection” with corporate sponsors or advertisers.  As of December 1, 2009, businesses are now legally required to disclose gifts or payments to bloggers and other online writers, to subsidize posts dedicated to their product(s). The FTC also updated its endorsement and testimonial rules, now holding celebrity endorsers liable for false statements about a product. Each infringement of these rules will cost the guilty party (i.e. the business) $11,000.

Continue to Read more about FTC’s stand on Blogging »