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Royal Rituals: How Do Food Testers Detect Poison? How Do They Tell If Meal Is Not Ready To Eat?

In previous times, royal families had food tasters as part of their staff, whose duty was to sample the food meant for the royals to guarantee its safety from potential poisoning.
04:05 PM May 15, 2024 IST | simran rajpal
royal rituals  how do food testers detect poison  how do they tell if meal is not ready to eat

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee extended an offer to personally serve cooked food to PM Narendra Modi. She questioned whether he would trust her to consume food prepared by him. Historically, kings and emperors employed individuals to check for poison in their food, a practice later adopted by world leaders. Currently, it is unclear whether this practice has ceased or continues discreetly.

TMC chief and West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee extended an offer to personally cook food for Prime Minister Narendra Modi. She stated on Monday that she is prepared to prepare something for him (Modi), though she expressed uncertainty about whether he would consume her cooking. The CM criticized the BJP for allegedly meddling in people's eating habits, highlighting this issue. She also emphasized the importance of trust in this context.

In ancient times, royal families employed food tasters. These families constituted a whole staff responsible for sampling the food intended for the royal family, ensuring its safety from any poison. Subsequently, a similar practice extended to prominent politicians. Numerous media reports allege that leaders facing threats from other countries or politicians discreetly employ food testers across almost all nations.

In foreign lands, cup-bearers also exist, tasked with sampling wine or other beverages to detect poison. They taste the drinks using a spoon taken from the glass to ensure authenticity. This activity typically occurs in the presence of the king or leader to maintain their peace of mind.

The origins of food tasters trace back to the Roman Empire. In 54 AD, King Claudius of Rome maintained a staff specifically for this duty. However, the king's demise resulted from poison in his food. It was later revealed that members of the tasting staff had engaged in fraudulent behavior.

What Poisons Are Found In Food?

Several poisons, such as arsenic trioxide, cyanide, and atropine, have been used in food. Although these poisons have distinct modes of action, they commonly induce vomiting shortly after ingestion. Some poisons exhibit delayed effects, manifesting within twenty-four hours or longer after entering the body. Arsenic poisoning, for instance, can take from two hours to four days to show symptoms, often causing mild stomach pain in otherwise healthy individuals. In such cases, kings or leaders may unknowingly consume poisoned food.

Additionally, there are slow-acting poisons that, when administered gradually in small doses, can cause the target's demise over a period of a month or more. Ultimately, even with food tasters, there can be no guarantee of a leader's survival.

Reports suggest that Russian President Vladimir Putin also utilized a food taster, although specific details are not publicly available. The British newspaper The Independent previously covered this topic. Allegedly, this Kremlin leader feared threats both domestically and internationally.

Throughout American history, many presidents maintained a staff responsible for testing meals for poison. During his presidency, news surfaced about Barack Obama's visit to France, where food served to him was initially tasted by another individual. Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan had previously announced plans to establish a laboratory at Rashtrapati Bhavan for testing the meals of the President, their family, or guests for poison.

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