Food Taster Question

Watching a sketch on SNL prompted a few questions I had about food royal tasters.

  1. Assuming they were real, and I have no reason to believe they weren’t, were these positions held by serfs who were just happy to have indoor work, or did people actually apply for this job?

  2. Did they really taste every plate of food, and sip every drink, that the monarch was served? Before the monarch took a bite out of an apple did the taster have to try it first?

  3. How exactly did this work? Would the taster test the food an hour before the monarch dined and would everyone wait to see if the tester got sick?

  4. Were royal cooks constantly trying to poison monarchs, or was the threat exaggerated?

  5. Are their still official tasters employed by monarchs these days?

There was something in the news how President Obama brought his own food to a foreign country, presumably to avoid poison. That wasn’t really true – the POTUS does bring an entourage, and the Secret Service does oversee food prep. But no, at least the US President, at least, doesn’t have a food taster.

I have no good citation, Wikipedia just says that the food taster was involved in food prep, so if he poisoned it, he’d be reluctant to eating it himself.

They knew that some poisons were gradual, so food tasters weren’t really like a literal SNL skit. Sometimes people were poisoned. Sometimes they were gradually poisoned. Some were in the process of being poisoned, and circumstances required them to be suddenly stabbed.