It’s very likely the President has a food taster, and despite criticism of the practice under President Barack Obama, the mystery anti-poison position apparently goes back to the days of Ronald Reagan.
The recent taster controversy was sparked after a report of the President not eating at a lunch with Republican senators earlier this month.
“Apparently he has to have essentially a taster, and I pointed out to him that we were all tasters for him, that if the food had been poisoned all of us would have keeled over,” Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) told the Daily Mail after the lunch. “He did look longingly at it and he remarked that we have far better food than the Democrats do, and I said that was because I was hosting.”
The U.S. Secret Service has long denied such a position exists. And Walter Scheib, a former White House chef has claimed, “there is no presidential food taster,” at least inside the security zone of the White House. Instead, Scheib claims there are “food screeners” who sometimes watch during food preparation.
But the criticism mocking Obama for asking to be treated as royalty appears to be misguided — presidential food-screeners appear to have been around since at least the 1980s.
Here’s a New York Times report from President George W. Bush’s inaugural lunch in 2001:
The president’s tasters were on the job by 6 a.m., not just to make certain no one was trying to poison him, but to make sure the mushrooms that were to decorate the tenderloin of beef at the inaugural lunch for teetotaler George W. Bush were not cooked in wine. The tasters, Navy mess specialists who travel around the world with the president, watched the preparations in a makeshift kitchen just off Statuary Hall in the Capitol.
And here’s a Jan. 26, 1998 report from Joe Murray of Cox News Service criticising Reagan for the practice:
So does Obama have a food taster? We may never know for sure, because the Secret Service is understandably tight-lipped.
But with the President facing 30 death threats a day, it’s not that outlandish to think the threat could come from the kitchen.
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