Rye bread and the Jewish connection. #general
Celia Male <celiamale@...>
As this is a Jewish genealogy group and we are dealing with a scientific subject,
may I suggest we stick to the facts re ergotism [which we have discussed under the
subject title "Black bread disease"], namely that it is caused by an ergot
[fungal] infection of rye which has dire effects on humans as the active
components in the ergot are very toxic.
There is no point speculating that it is coeliac disease, black death or caused by
eating *hot bread* - the cause of this condition has been known for hundreds of
years. This website, based on a lecture, gives the background [and also discusses
witchcraft and bubonic plague references] very clearly:
Coeliac disease is totally different - it is an autoimmune condition caused by a
sensitivity to a peptide sequence in the gliadin component of gluten found in
wheat, barley and rye. It can go undetected, cause great intestinal discomfort,
have minor symptoms or be asymptomatic. It is not of a neurological nature and is
now thought to affect up to 1-3 per cent of the total population in the UK and
probably many other Western countries. The only known treatment is to avoid these
cereals in the diet. Genetic engineering of cereal crops may eventually provide an
answer to the sufferers.
Rye cultivation [the grain was also present as weed infestation of wheat crops]
was very widespread in the Middle East in ancient times but probably ergot
poisoning was very rare as the fungus needs damp conditions to develop. Ergot
contamination can occur anywhere if the conditions are correct. An outbreak in rye
fields is recorded in 2000 in N. America:
We can read here about the global distribution of rye cultivation:
http://rye.vtt.fi/chapter6.htm and this is confirmed on our own Jewishgen website:
in Lida district Poland, rye was the predominant cereal crop: rye-229,300 ha.,
oats-103,600 ha., barley-37,100 ha., wheat-7,000 ha. Rye also grows very well in
Thus, rye cultivation went hand-in-hand with areas of high Jewish population:
There must have been many Jews who suffered [and perhaps died] >from ergotism in
Eastern Europe - how this was designated on the death certificate is another
subject. If you read the first reference carefully, you will see that there were
large outbreaks in the twentieth century: Russia 1926/1927 with 10,000 cases;
France 1951; UK amongst Central European Jews in 1927. No self-respecting
Englishman would eat rye bread!
With modern detection techniques for contamination of rye, hopefully ergot
poisoning has been confined to the history books.
Celia Male [U.K]
MODERATOR NOTE: We're straying afield of genealogy. This thread is ended. Let's
get back to genealogy, Genners!