While modern-day methods of food safety are much more efficient, medieval-era methods aren’t much different. Food poisoning was a real issue during the medieval period, and the burden of prevention was shared among servants. Each of them was responsible for specific actions to prevent food poisoning. Unlike today, medieval-era servants had no shortage of tools at their disposal. Among these tools, a horn from a “unicorn” was thought to be effective in neutralizing poison. However, this horn was actually the tusk of a narwhal. These were also used in protective amulets. Shark’s teeth were also thought to have similar poisonous effects and were often used to decorate drinking goblets.
The poorer people didn’t have the means to prepare food for themselves, so they ate together in the great hall with servants and family members. The wealthy, meanwhile, owned drinking goblets, which were made of glass and sometimes even silver. The rich, however, tended to use gold or silver goblets. Bread in medieval times was much less sophisticated, but still served as a basic food, albeit unhealthful.
Poor weather and climate were two major factors in the medieval era. In some places, climate change caused temperatures to drop below the average level, creating a ‘Little Ice Age’. In addition to crop failure, people were vulnerable to disease and infection. Famine often followed, and illnesses like smallpox, tuberculosis, and sweating sickness could be deadly. The poor quality of grain resulted in a higher mortality rate and inflation.