Disgust and aversion of food

Food aversion may be cultural, psychological or physiological, and defined by personal preference or by society. The reasons for such aversion remain unclear, yet are presumed to be a measure of protection from food unsuitable for eating.

Peruvian cuy chactado, grilled guinea pig
© Shutterstock / anna mori

Food (un)fit for eating

Our perception of food varies from one culture to another, in particular as to whether it is fit for eating, or not. Natural and cultural assumptions determine our likes and dislikes regarding food; they consolidate to form a traditional model of food culture. Feelings of disgust inherited from our evolution to protect ourselves against toxins can be innate or acquired after a bad experience; children reject bitter food, but appreciate it later in life. The carrion smell of decaying protein triggers nausea, which protects us from contamination; on the other hand, strong-smelling cheese and game hung to age can become a delicacy. Religion or ideology stigmatise some foodstuffs as impure and make eating them a taboo, such as pork in Judaism and Islam, horsemeat in Germanic culture and, more generally, the flesh of all pets, such as dogs and cats.

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