Skip to main content

Home  »  Dangerous Jobs   »   History’s worst jobs: Tasting food for poison

History’s worst jobs: Tasting food for poison

A jar of red poison

Most of us go to work relatively safe in the knowledge our jobs won't make us seriously ill, or even lead to our deaths.

Granted, there are some dangerous jobs out there, but even those are governed by a litany of health and safety rules to keep people as safe as possible.

But if you look back a few hundred years, most jobs were dangerous, and safety rules were non-existent.

READ MORE: 7 Unbelievably Boring Jobs

You can find some of the most disgusting, dangerous and downright horrible jobs in history here.

Imagine if your actual job was designed for you to become seriously ill or die.

Well that did actually used to happen.

As with a lot of these things, it involves the very rich exploiting the very poor.

Fear of assassination

Throughout history, the rich and powerful have had a fear their enemies were trying to poison them.

This is because, in a lot of cases, they were.

One method the assassins would use would be to put poison in their food.

This was usually after the other method of putting venomous snakes in their bed had failed.

Need Career Advice? Get employment skills advice at all levels of your career

Food tasters

To get round this, the elites would employ food tasters.

These were not people whose job it was to decide whether the food needed a bit more salt, their job was to see whether the food had been poisoned.

So if they didn't either throw up or drop dead, they'd had a successful day at work.

Unsurprisingly, volunteers were scarce, although some people saw it as their only chance to ever eat the foods of the elites.

Mostly, people were forced to do it by heavily armored soldiers.

So the choice was to eat food that might have been poisoned, or to be stabbed to death with swords.

Emperor Claudius was a big employer

One famous historical figure who was a regular user of food tasters was the Roman Emperor Claudius.

He was very paranoid about being poisoned.

According to some historians, Claudius let his guard down at a crucial time.

His cause of death is said to be mushrooms, which had been poisoned by his wife, Agrippina.

Follow us on YouTube, X, LinkedIn, and Facebook.