The Indian government is adding an extra layer of security to the food for President Obama’s visit to this weekend. In addition to the normal presidential food safety protocols, which presumably include Secret Service agent-chefs to taste test food, Indian media reported yesterday that an elite team of food tasters will assist with the job.
According to media reports, all 12 of the people on the food tasting team are medical doctors at JJ Hospital in Mumbai. “These doctors have been assigned as food tasters for the biggest VIP of all – Barack Obama,” reported the Mumbai Mirror.
The newspaper report goes into surprising detail, saying that the tasters were asked to serve on Nov. 6 and 7 at all the places on Obama’s itinerary, including INS Shikra, where his helicopter lands, Taj Mahal hotel, Oberoi Trident hotel, Holy Name High School, St. Xaviers College, Mani Bhavan and, once again, INS Shikra, from where he will leave for the airport.
Dean TP Lahane, Dean of JJ hospital, told the paper, “While the president will travel with his own food tasters, the protocol requires that we should also provide some from our end.”
The doctors are not professional food tasters but they have, on occasion, tasted food for different government officials, according to the Mirror.
“This job is often annoying because we are not professionals and are used as guinea pigs. However, it is exciting to work for Obama,” one anonymous doctor told the Mirror. “We have already started doing our homework on what he will be eating. We will be meeting the hotel chefs tomorrow.”
“We taste samples and also store some for the cops,” explained one doctor on the assignment. “If anything goes wrong, we can use these samples for investigation.”
According to Obama Foodorama, a food and ag policy blog focused on the administration, Indian media also reported–quite dubiously, it turns out–this week that 3,000 people, including Secret Service, U.S. officials, and journalists, will travel to India with the president.
White House photo by Pete Souza of President Obama and Mrs. Gursharan Kaur, wife of India Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, at the State Dinner with India in September, 2009.