Satin, Morton

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Satin, Morton




Home—Rockville, MD. Office—Salt Institute, 700 N. Fairfax St., Fairfax Plaza, Alexandria, VA 22314-2050. E-mail—[email protected].


Molecular biologist and writer. Salt Institute, Alexandria, VA, director of technical and regulatory affairs. Former director, Global Agribusiness program, United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.


Food Irradiation: A Guidebook, Technomic (Lancaster, PA), 1993. 2nd edition, 1996.

Food Alert! The Ultimate Sourcebook for Food Safety, Facts on File (New York, NY), 1999, 2nd. edition, 2008.

Death in the Pot: The Impact of Food Poisoning on History, Prometheus Books (Amherst, NY), 2007.


A molecular biologist and former director of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization's Global Agribusiness program, Morton Satin is currently the director of technical and regulatory affairs at the Salt Institute. He has written two well-received books on food safety: Food Irradiation: A Guidebook and Food Alert! The Ultimate Sourcebook for Food Safety. He has also written a book for general readers about food poisoning throughout history.

In Food Alert! Satin provides a comprehensive overview of the subject and presents clearly detailed information about consumer safety. He discusses the major food groups and explains how various contaminants can affect them, as well as describing symptoms of different types of food poisoning. Satin outlines steps for the hygienic handling, preparation, and storing of food, focusing on the most common causes of food contamination in the kitchen. He provides helpful information about how to avoid food contaminants when grocery shopping or dining in restaurants, with a special section on travel dining. Detailed descriptions of some of the more unpleasant effects of food poisoning further enhance Satin's material and convey the importance of food safety practices, while the book's concluding section presents data on the incidence and economic impacts of food poisoning. Pointing out that nearly one hundred million cases of food-related ill- nesses are reported in the United States each year, Booklist reviewer William Beatty observed that Food Alert! "provides everything readers need to know to protect themselves and others from food-borne diseases."

Food Irradiation, Satin's earlier book, covers the sometimes-controversial topic of subjecting foods to gamma rays or electron beams to prolong shelf life and enhance food safety. Satin presents an explanation of the irradiation process, discusses the various fears and controversies surrounding the process, and explains how irradiating can prevent food contamination and increase food safety.

In Death in the Pot: The Impact of Food Poisoning on History, Satin describes the role that food-borne illnesses have played in world history. He writes that the plague in Athens in the early fifth century, which led to their defeat in the Peloponnesian War, was probably caused by contaminated grains, and he also considers an account in the Bible describing the death of the Israelites in the desert after they ate quail to be a case of mass food poisoning. Satin covers such additional subjects as lead poisoning in ancient Greece and Rome, which occurred because the metal leached out of their cooking pots; the possibility that poisoning by arsenic may have caused the madness of England's King George III; and the deliberate poisoning of westerners living in Hong Kong during the Second Opium War, when their bread was deliberately laced with arsenic.

Satin explains that food contaminated with ergot, a fungal parasite that affects rye and other grains, causes muscle spasms that people in the Middle Ages called "Saint Anthony's Fire," a condition they attributed to God's wrath. Satin theorizes that the hallucinatory thoughts reported by women accused of witchcraft in Puritan New England may have been caused by ingesting moldy grain. Satin also discusses more recent developments, including recent E. Coli outbreaks affecting meat and vegetables, and the potential threats of bioterrorism.

Though Chemical Heritage contributor Gabriella Petrick found Death in the Pot disorganized and sometimes lacking in context, such as Satin identifying Viktor Yushchenko's poisoning by dioxin as an example of food poisoning rather than an individual crime. As Petrick notes, Satin tends to give all outbreaks of food poisoning equal importance, regardless of their impacts, and to overstate the role of food in some world events. A reviewer for Internet Bookwatch, on the other hand, considered the book "intriguing." A Publishers Weekly contributor expressed similar enthusiasm, deeming Satin's speculations about food-borne illnesses through history "fascinating."



Booklist, July 1, 1999, William Beatty, review of Food Alert! The Ultimate Sourcebook for Food Safety, p. 1914.

Chemical Heritage, spring, 2008, Gabriella Petrick, review of Death in the Pot: The Impact of Food Poisoning on History.

Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries, December 1, 1993, M. Kroger, review of Food Irradiation: A Guidebook, p. 637; December 1, 1999, M. Kroger, review of Food Alert!, p. 756.

Eurofood, September 27, 2001, "The International Food and Agribusiness Management Association," p. 14.

Internet Bookwatch, November 1, 2007, review of Death in the Pot.

Journal of Environmental Health, September 1, 2000, review of Food Alert!, p. 31.

Nutrition Today, September 1, 2006, "Satin Named Technical Director of Salt Institute," p. 191.

Publishers Weekly, May 14, 2007, review of Death in the Pot, p. 42.

Science News, September 22, 2007, review of Death in the Pot, p. 191.

SciTech Book News, November 1, 1996, review of Food Irradiation, p. 80; September 1, 1999, review of Food Alert!, p. 63; December 1, 2007, review of Death in the Pot.


Prometheus Books Web site, (April 20, 2008), author profile.