Monday, June 08, 2009

A food taster? 

Apparently the White House employs a "food taster" who tries all our president's food, at least when it is prepared outside of Secret Service control.

A US "taster" tested the food being dished up to President Barack Obama at a dinner in a French restaurant, a waiter said on Sunday.

"They have someone who tastes the dishes," said waiter Gabriel de Carvalho from the "La Fontaine de Mars" restaurant where Obama and his family turned up for dinner on Saturday night.

Before you go bananas, the Bush administration did the same thing, albeit in England. If the point is to make sure that the president does not eat anything that tastes bad, it seems to me that the White House should take judicial notice of the vast gastronomic chasm that separates England and France.

In any case, when Bush used a taste-tester in England it was apparently at the behest of the Secret Service, so let's assume the Service also organized the vetting of Obama's food. That means that the purpose of the taster was not to defend the president's palate, but his life, and that, in turn, invites my question: Does food-tasting actually work as a defense against modern poisons? I would have thought that a chemist and maybe a microbiologist with a portable analyzer would be a much safer bet, but maybe I'm wrong to imagine that there are lethal poisons that do not alter the taste of even the most nuance haute cuisine.


By Blogger clint, at Mon Jun 08, 08:10:00 AM:

Perhaps I've misunderstood, but I thought the idea of a medieval food-taster wasn't to *taste* the poison, but to reveal its existence by getting sick and starting to die several minutes before the King (President) would show any signs -- hopefully giving the King (President) time to vomit up the poison.  

By Anonymous QuakerCat, at Mon Jun 08, 08:36:00 AM:

TH about six or seven years after Gerald Ford left office he was a commencement speaker at Cornell where my sister was a student. He came to her bar where she was a bar tender and the Secret Service who still watched over him, made her open a new bottle of the vodka he was drinking. to a point where they had to see her break the seal of the new bottle.

My point is that everything that goes into their system is analyzed and my bet is that they do use some sort of quick chemical analysis tool in the back before it comes out versus the poor schnook who actually has to swallow potential poison (think OSHA on that one...?)  

By Blogger Christopher Chambers, at Mon Jun 08, 08:48:00 AM:

I'll give you the benefit of the doubt re: the President--on sensor technology. But a taster? The Secret Service trusted the French to make Sasha Obama's birthday cake (on which she and her big sister AND her Mom feasted); I doubt anyone one was allowed to chew up the frosting first. She and her big sis also sampled some concessions around the Eifel Tower this weekend and I doubt an agent someone was licking her ice cream for her. She's not the type who'd want any tasting done by anyone other than herself. Must be tough to be a hungry kid and have some dude stick some sensor in your smoothie...  

By Anonymous JT, at Mon Jun 08, 09:10:00 AM:

I'd heard that the way it works is that the SS is in the kitchen itself, watching the food prep. Works well, particularly if you control the supply of raw materials, and to limit the risk of the Fez-hatted bad guy slipping the vial of poison into the soup, or sticking his Johnson into it, pissing on the meal, etc.

In the end, I figure this is about protocol, and because this is the kind of crap that government spooks live for. One tastes it, the other one has the serum in his sleeve, etc. No one is going to off President Obama ... if for no other reason than the outcome would be Joe Biden, which for my money is Bush less 40 IQ points. He'd be amusing for an afternoon, then scary when you realize that we're an event away from Pelosi.  

By Blogger Dawnfire82, at Mon Jun 08, 11:36:00 AM:

"I doubt anyone one was allowed to chew up the frosting first. She and her big sis also sampled some concessions around the Eifel Tower this weekend..."

Poisons are not set up randomly. It doesn't make any sense to have someone test your McDonald's hamburger; how the hell would the McDonald's employees (even if they dream of assassination attempts) have known that they would be preparing a burger for a VIP and had some lethal concoction prepared?

Also, the President's kids are not the President. They don't have the same level of protection that he does.

Aside, you seem very up-to-date on the doings of the First Family...

"then scary when you realize that we're an event away from Pelosi."

Not once he selects his own VP.  

By Blogger Georgfelis, at Mon Jun 08, 05:59:00 PM:

Since a food taster would be very important in preventing a President Biden, I hope the Secret Service has hired the absolute best.  

By Anonymous Ruth H, at Mon Jun 08, 06:44:00 PM:

Did this start after the elder Bush became ill from food and threw up while in Japan?  

By Blogger Georgfelis, at Tue Jun 09, 09:56:00 AM:

That was the flu (non-swine variety) IIRC. And they've been doing this (on a gradually increasing basis) for decades. We have a very dedicated smart bunch of tough cookies protecting our president, and I would not have it any other way, no matter who occupies the shoes.  

By Blogger GreenmanTim, at Thu Jun 11, 04:52:00 PM:

After the tragic Jan 2002 President G.H.W. Bush food poisoning incident in Japan, I would think the Secret Service would be even more vigilant about food testing.  

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