Friday, June 24, 2011

Food blogger fined and jailed for bad review

Food Diary (June 23, 2011)
Breakfast: Yogurt oat bread toast
Lunch: Potato and bean soup
Dinner: Ramen noodles, rolled oats with strawberries, custard and sunflower seeds

I had boring sounding meals today. Personally I liked it but I am guessing it looks dull and boring to most people. Lots of oats, fibre it good!

Today's Favourite Photo
Chocolate Cake

Today’s Favourite Blog
Source: Taipei Times
A Taiwanese food blogger has been jailed for 30 days, given 2 years probation and fined about US$6,900 for writing a critical restaurant review. 

Liu, the blogger, found the dried noodles and side dishes at Taichung beef noodle restaurant to be too salty, the restaurant unsanitary because of cockroaches and the owner to be a “bully”. Little did she know that the meal could be one of her most expensive and memorable meals. And the meals she would be having for 30 days would be the cheapest but most memorable.

The unhappy restaurant owner successfully sued her for defamation. The District Court ruled that “Liu’s criticism of the restaurant exceeded reasonable bounds and sentenced her to 30 days in detention”. Liu appealed. The High Court ruled that “Liu should not have criticized all the restaurant’s food as too salty because she only had one dish on her single visit.” With respect to unsanitary conditions, the health officials did not find conditions to be as unsanitary as Liu had described. As a result the High Court ruled that Liu must pay about US$6,900 as compensation to the owner for lost revenues.

The courts did raise an interesting issue that the blogger only had one dish. Maybe dishes served to other customers were fine. Or perhaps the blogger had a sweet drink just before the meal which may have affected her taste buds. It is common sense that when bloggers express opinions it is their own opinion based on dishes they tried. However I have never seen bloggers write a disclaimer, stating the obvious that their opinion is based on the meal they had and may not be representative of meals generally served at the restaurant. I wonder whether the courts would accept such a disclaimer. 

I also wonder whether courts in other countries will take a view similar to the Taiwanese courts. I am not aware of bloggers in other countries being sued. Lots of unanswered questions. I have a legal background but unfortunately not in this area so I cannot say anything particularly useful! And fortunately I don't do restaurant reviews, and fortunately I only leave positive comments on other bloggers sites!


  1. That decadent chocolate cake is totally killing my no-sugar resolve for this weekend! Also shocked by that news about what happened to the Taiwanese food blogger. Hope the restaurants don't take this case as a precedent, otherwise it will mark the end of personal restaurant reviews as we know it

  2. I am sorry to hear of what happened to the Taiwanese food blogger. In Malaysia, we cannot simply write bad reviews of restaurants too and that's why I stay out. The chocolate cake looks awefully moist and delish.

  3. Lovely choc cake! I suddenly have a craving for chocolate, cake or whatever.
    Blogs are personal and in my opinion, similar to a diary that's shared. Can one be sued for a personal opinion? But then, I haven't read the review and maybe it could be worded differently ... but even then, it could be interpreted however the reader likes ... sigh, can't win.

  4. I think your menu sounds great. I love soup for lunch - it is so filling and comfort food mid-day is a good thing for me.

  5. Eeeks! You've gotta love our freedom of speech. Your dinner sounds yummy!

  6. Wow. That makes me appreciate being in the U.S. where opinions like that are legal. Though, I will say that calling the restaurant owner a "bully" is a bit much.

  7. How upsetting! Sometimes defamation laws get out of control :S

  8. Your meals don't sound boring at all! I love bread and butter for breakfast, and potatoes and beans are just wonderful! I can eat that every day! Your dinner sound great too! And that chocolate cake picture...yum!!!! :)

  9. Ramen noodles are never boring, it's great! Also, re your comment - I might be coming to Oktoberfest if I go to Munich with some friends after my internship, I'm quite looking forward to it!

  10. Foodiva: and I hope the bloggers also don’t take it as a precedent and hold back from writing reviews.

    Quay Po: bad reviews can sometimes help restaurants by highlighting flaws but I guess it also drives customers away.

    Ping: yes, can’t win! Solution, restaurants to make serve only good food, or bloggers to write only positive reviews:)

    Angela: thank you

    Kirsty: yes freedom of speech but there are other ways to quash it!

    Yummychunklet: agree with the bully comment, its subjective opinion

    Hannah: good for lawyers I suppose:)

    Sheila: thank you

    Xinmei: I hope you make it, one day I hope to visit also

  11. That cake looks incredible! I have heard of bad reviews but boy that must have been really bad to be jailed for it! LOL! I agree with YummyChunklet!

  12. Wow that is insane! I'm so glad things like that don't happen in the US. Also, honestly...if the place had cockroaches, it kind of deserved the bad review.

  13. You scared me with the jail for a restaurant review! I hope it can't happen in Europe... Not that I write many reviews (well actually I do sometimes on a local restaurants reviews website), but I would like to feel safe.
    Your meals today look extremely healthy! Sometimes reading your blog I think: luckily I haven't had the same idea... If I wrote what I really eat for every meal, some days people would get heart attacks! Your menus make me want to eat healthier :-)

  14. Wow, how crazy. Makes me appreciate my freedom of speech. Then again in America, we also truly appreciate our attorneys so the defamation of character may have won here too. But, jail time???

  15. That's just insane, but I am with Joanne, a place had cockroaches did deserve the bad review.
    The chocolate cake looks divine!

  16. What a gorgeous cake! I'm pretty sure I saw it on tastespotting. Hey, not a boring meal at all--oats and fiber are essential!

  17. Kitchen Belleicious: exactly! I bet she will think twice next time
    Joanne: agree, presence of cockroaches is enough to keep most customers away
    Sissi: don't be scared! I have never heard of this happen anywhere else. But no harm being cautious. I am sure your meals won't give heart attacks.
    The Slow Roasted Italian: jail time is a bit rough I suppose but thats how the cookie crumbled in Taiwan!
    Angie: exactly, cockroaches equals think twice about the place
    Caroline: thank you!

  18. It is great that you post that for us all to see.
    Have a wonderful weekend!

  19. Huh... It's amazing how different countries around the world treat the right to freedom of speech. My Taiwanese husband said the restaurant is probably owned by politician. Haha.

  20. Wow $6,900 and 30 days that a big amount. What happened to freedom of speech? or was justice bought at a price

  21. Maris: you are welcome

    Nami: haha, I had similar thoughts.

    Raymund: plus legal fees! Freedom is speech is not as 'free'