White House food tasters?

In medieval times, royal courts employed food tasters to ensure that the kitchen staff hadn’t conspired to commit a coup d’etat through poison.  The practice continued for heads of state until modern times, and also for novels and Hollywood movies.  AFP reports that Barack Obama used one this week — in a French restaurant, no less, and I’m getting a lot of e-mail on it:

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. …

Asked by AFP to comment, the restaurant confirmed the report.

Sacre bleu! What an insult to French cuisine!  Why, this is unprecedented … except that it’s actually not.  From November 2003:

AS if the Queen hasn’t got enough on her plate accommodating all President Bush’s security demands, the Secret Service have put a food taster into the Buckingham Palace kitchens.

Nothing is being left to chance by the Americans, who have assembled the largest security operation seen in London for the three-day visit.

According to sources, everything that is destined to be served up for the President has to be tasted first.

Granted, Bush was a lot less personally popular in Europe than Obama even in the best of times, but it was also Buckingham Palace. The Secret Service apparently decided to leave nothing to chance, and I suspect that they have made this standard operating procedure when the President dines outside the US.  I wouldn’t be surprised if this hasn’t been SOP for more than just Bush and Obama, too.

Overly paranoid?  Perhaps, but then again, the Secret Service doesn’t get paid to roll the dice unnecessarily.