Easy there with your adjectives, food bloggers. If you dare to call a restaurant's offerings "too salty" in Taiwan (especially after all we're reading these days about sodium), you could wind up behind bars, the Daily What notes.
A woman with an amateur food blog of moderate success (the Taipei Times reports she has received more than 60,000 hits) was sentenced to 30 days in jail, given two years probation and fined the equivalent of $6,782 CDN.
Her crime? Defamation. A restaurant owner filed a suit against her after she reviewed his establishment and deemed its food "too salty." She also said the owner was a bully and reported the presence of cockroaches. While the judge had no problem with the comment about the roaches, he said it was unfair to call all the food "too salty" since she'd only tried one dish on one visit.
When inspectors later visited the restaurant to see if it was as unsanitary as the blogger claimed, they determined it was not and she was ordered to pay the owner for lost revenue.
You don't have to travel to Taiwan to hear restauranteurs groan about food bloggers. In the last decade, the online foodie revolution has bestowed great new powers on amateur bloggers and members of review sites such as Urbanspoon and Yelp.
Many chefs and restaurant owners argue most are unqualified to properly evaluate food or present balanced reviews. In one famous rant, celebrity chef Mario Batali said food bloggers' relative anonymity and lack of accountability "allows them a peculiar and nasty vocabulary that seems to be taken as truth by virtue of the fact that it has been printed somewhere. Unfortunately, this also allows untruths, lies and malicious and personally driven dreck to be quoted as fact."
But in a response to such criticisms, the blogger behind the Portland, Maine blog From Away argued food bloggers are in some ways present more passionate reviews than newspaper critics since they're writing based on personal interest in food.
"The demand for fresh content on a website means that we aren't visiting a restaurant 3 or 4 times, and then lounging around in our jammies for days, smoking a pipe, while we consider whether the pico de gallo on our halibut was 'piquant' or simply 'poignant,'" he writes.
What's your take on food bloggers? Do you invest more in their reviews or those of professional restaurant critics?