Even the Rats Won't Touch It


Wes: [referring to their prison rations] Imperial MRRs. Meals Ready to Regurgitate.
Ibitsam: At least the local rodents seem uninterested in them.
Wes: Right. So we have no bait for fresh meat.
X-Wing Series Comics, "In the Empire's Service"

This trope usually occurs in a prison or school/camp cafeteria. The food that a character is served is so terrible that even the rampant vermin (or some other animal widely considered undesirable) refuse to eat it. Maybe because it's an Indestructible Edible, maybe because it's just that bad-tasting. This is usually used to demonstrate how terrible the food is.

Often the product of a Lethal Chef, and usually in the form of Mystery Meat. Compare Even Beggars Won't Choose It for the non-food variant, as well as Even Evil Has Standards and Even the Dog Is Ashamed. See also Too Spicy for Yog Sothoth, when an Eldritch Abomination turns down a meal of the hero. For other dystopia-like looks at food, see Future Food Is Artificial and Poverty Food. Subtrope of Everyone Has Standards.


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    Comic Books 
  • A recurring joke in Archie Comics. In one oneshot, a bear steals a picnic basket from the girls. It takes a bite, spits it out, and brings the basket back while pinching its nose, causing Veronica to cry, "Worse news, girls- the bear's bringing it back!"
  • V for Vendetta: Evey is served some kind of food in prison which a rat looks at and then passes up.
  • In Tintin and the Picaros, Tintin cooks up a meal laced with an experimental drug from Prof. Calculus to a rebel camp to break them of their alcoholism. Said rebels don't trust him, so Tintin feeds the meal to Snowy. Snowy doesn't want to eat it either (because the drug tastes like Blazing Inferno Hellfire Sauce), but Tintin forces Snowy to eat it anyhow. The rebels then eat it. Nobody gets sick, and nobody can hold their liquor afterwards. Mission successful.
  • An arc in the X-Wing Series comics has Wes and Ibitsam captured and imprisoned together. As quoted above, the local rat equivalents won't touch their food, which means they can't use it as bait to catch and eat the rats.
  • In the Looney Tunes comic book story "Cooking Made Uneasy", Honey Bunny gets offended and storms off when she finds out that Bugs doesn't like her cooking:
    Bugs: Just hear me out! Face it, Honey Bun — you are not one of the world's great cooks!
    Honey: I am so a good cook!
    Bugs: Oh, come on! The mice in your house have to send out for cheese sandwiches!

    Comic Strips 
  • Garfield has sometimes used Jon's cooking as mouse repellent. Heck, it probably counts as this trope that Garfield himself won't eat some of the things Jon cooks.
  • In a Zits strip, Pierce tosses a piece of junk food he's eating to a pigeon. The pigeon eats it and then throws up. Cue Jeremy commenting "And that's an animal that lives on garbage" and Pierce peering into the packet and musing that maybe he needs to re-examine his dietary habits.
  • This comic strip by Keith Reynolds.
  • The 'Limited Edition Haulin' Ass And Ammo "Meals Ready To Eat" Snack Pouches' from Knights of the Dinner Table:
    Weird Pete: I bought half a pallet of that crap two years ago... Didn't sell a single pack.. Squirrely wouldn't even touch 'em.

    Fan Works 
  • Played with in Hope for the Heartless: it's shown a fortnight following the demise of the Mad Pack wolves that other than flies, maggots and gnats, no scavenger has touched the meat of the wolves driven murderously insane by a disease similar to rabies.

    Films — Animation 
  • In The Triplets of Belleville, Madame Souza warily regards the frog stew the eponymous triplets have made, and even Bruno, the obese dog shown so far to eat anything, sniffs it and then backs away. This is mostly due, however, to the fact that one of the frogs in his serving is still alive and starts to kick.
  • In Ratatouille, Linguini's attempt at cooking soup is so bad, a rat catches a whiff of it and chokes. Granted, Rémy is a rat with a highly refined sense of smell, but rats don't have a gag reflex.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In The Road to Wellville, a group of somewhat shady businessmen try to produce a new brand of cornflakes, in competition with the very John Kellogg. Since their... products are anything but tasty, they feed them to some pigs. Who won't eat it either.
  • There's a scene in Blood Sport where the two American agents sent to bring Frank back to the US are eating in a Hong Kong restaurant, exclaiming about how good the food is. Later in the scene, however, their liaison from Hong Kong refuses to eat at that restaurant, and when they go to leave they throw some meat to a stray dog that has been watching them. The dog reacts by just whimpering and turning away.
  • In the Blue Collar Comedy Tour stand-up comedy movie, comedian Ron White says his wife was such a bad cook that he tried to feed it to his dog and it started licking its butt. His wife asks "What's he doing?" and he responded, "It looks like he's trying to get the taste out of his mouth!"
  • Riddick: Riddick opens up an MRE, tastes it, then throws it to his tamed hyena/jackal thing. The "dog" sniffs it once, then turns around and pees on it.
  • In Good Burger the heroes start to suspect their competition is up to something unethical when they toss a Mondo Burger to a dog and it refuses to touch it.
  • While at Momma Lucy's, David, from Mr and Mrs Smith, is concerned that the cat won't eat the soup they're eating.
    David Smith: I'd give five bucks to see that cat take a sip of that soup.
  • In Toys, Robin Williams' character jokes that he once experimented by putting a pile of sugar and a pile of artificial sweetener on the sidewalk. In short order, ants had formed a line to collect the sugar, while the other pile had barricades and a traffic-control crew.
  • In Diary of a Wimpy Kid, a roach backs away from the "cursed" piece of moldy cheese in the playground at Greg's school.

  • An old schoolyard joke goes that the food in the cafeteria is so bad, the flies need medical attention.
  • In one episode of Gordon Ramsay, though it's meant to be serious as Ramsay cannot stand bad food, the way he said that even if the food is given to a mannequin for free but refuses makes it funny.

  • Discworld:
    • In Making Money, Cut-Me-Own-Throat Dibbler asks Mr. Lipwig for a business loan, and brings along samples of the food he sells from his cart. Lipwig's dog Mr. Fusspot is offered a sausage, which he promptly tries to bury under the carpet. When Mr. Bent points this out, Lipwig retorts that Dibbler's ability to get people to eat what dogs won't is a testament to his business skill.
    • In The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents, rats often remind one another that the "green wobbly bit" is something to be avoided when eating one another.
    • In The Truth, the same Dibbler encounters two customers who want a truly awful sausage inna bun, and he shifts an internal gear into reverse as he describes their contents, including the tidbit that you won't find any rat in them, because rats won't go near the place they are made (with the tasteful detail that when a man's thumb got cut off they didn't even stop the grinder — one hopes he was exaggerating).
    • There's Dwarf Bread, a parody of Lembas Bread: The main point of packing it down as rations is so you know that, as long as you have Dwarf Bread to look forward to, almost everything else becomes a better alternative for food. Including roots, berries, moss, small rocks, or your own legs. Dwarfs probably wish it could attract rats, rats being a staple of their diet, but the best way to catch rats with Dwarf Bread probably involves throwing it at them.
    • In Feet of Clay rats are described as sometimes breaking into the Dwarf Bread Museum, losing most of their teeth in the process. Cats often hang around, as the rats are a bit stunned after taking a bite of what is basically a slab of semi-edible concrete.
    • In Witches Abroad, it's described that the best way to eat dwarf bread is to soak it in a bucket of water for a week then eat the bucket.
  • The hero of Glen Cook's Garrett, P.I. series often justifies his distaste for Morley Dotes' vegetarian restaurant menu with the argument that pigs, which will otherwise eat just about anything, won't touch green peppers or cattail hearts.
  • According to The Berenstain Bears Spend Too Much Vacation, the berries the Bear family ate at the run-down campground were so sour "that even the birds puckered!"
  • In the second Peter Grant urban fantasy novel, Molly's eggs Benedict turns out so badly that Toby the dog, when offered a sample, whimpers and hides under the breakfast table.
  • When the murderous bear possessed by a demon kills various animals during the course of Wolf Brother, all the carcasses it leaves behind are left untouched by scavengers.
  • In Bravelands, this is a more spiritual example. The vultures in the Bravelands usually observe the carcass of a killed animal before eating it, to see if the animal was killed according to the Code or not. If not, the vultures won't eat it, instead taking its bones to the Great Mother to read.
  • The Zombie Survival Guide and World War Z explain that zombies are so dangerous and indestructible because carrion, flies, bacteria — everything that feeds on dead flesh — won't touch zombie flesh.

    Live-Action TV 
  • On Friends, Joey made a revolting sandwich. He tosses some outside the car to distract a dog. Rachel points out that the dog licks himself; yet refuses to eat the sandwich.
  • Played with on Star Trek: The Next Generation. A running joke is that there are certain foods so revolting no being will ever eat them. Except Worf, who thinks it's delicious.
  • Jerry Dean of American Hoggers had been trying to make some wild hog sausage. He tried some and then tried to feed it to one of his hunting dogs. The dog tasted it and ran off.
  • In "Convalescence" of Murdoch Mysteries, Detective Murdoch complains about his food. His landlady is a Lethal Chef, but her stand-in seems to be an even worse cook. Even a mouse will not eat the food she brought to Murdoch. He later finds a dead mouse (this one was probably very hungry), and he realizes that his meals are being poisoned.
  • The Stone Tape. The strange noises in castle are said to be rats, but one character notes that there are still cans of spam left over from the war that would have been chewed open if that were the case.

    Urban Legends 
  • An urban legend states that flies won't touch margarine because it's "one molecule away from plastic." (Also a case of Artistic License – Chemistry — chemical structure is almost as important to a compound's physical properties as its composition. Two molecules might contain exactly the same atoms but be arranged in a different way and consequently have wildly different behavior (melting/boiling point, density, toxicity...). The statement that "margarine is (chemically similar to) plastic" is effectively meaningless.) Cracked.com once pointed out that the logic behind this claim is like saying that a farm is a bad thing because it's one letter away from a fart.
  • An old urban legend had it that a starving coyote wouldn't eat a dead Mexican, because the residue of a lifetime of chili peppers would burn the creature's mouth. This is utter biological nonsense, but gullible gringo tourists were regularly fooled by this equivalent of "free-range haggis" or "drop bears." A variation that says that vultures won't touch a dead Mexican makes even less sense: peppers don't burn birds in the first place.Scientific aside 

    Video Games 
  • At one point shortly after Koromaru (the dog) joins in Persona 3, there's a small moment in the dorm lounge (it can be seen around 8/15 to 8/24) where Yukari, having screwed up making her dinner, tries to feed the leftovers to him. Koromaru wants nothing to do with them. Junpei, of course, thinks it's hilarious.
    Junpei: AHHAHAHAHAHAHA! That's awesome! He won't eat it!
    • There's also a scene in Fuuka's Social Link, where she tries to give some of her food to stray cat. It runs away.
  • Rations from the Metal Gear franchise are notorious for its taste. Naked Snake would take a rotten snake any day over Russian rations. He and EVA complain the taste when consuming one and if you toss one to the guard dogs, they won't even touch it. According to Roy Campbell in Metal Gear Solid 4, French rations are consider to be the best which contains sweets and American ones to be the worst. Rose's cooking is considered to be worse according to Raiden which he would prefer rations.
  • One section of the manual/copy protection in Leisure Suit Larry 3 used this chart to rate restaurants:
    1 Star: My dog wouldn't eat here
    2 Stars: My dog would eat here, but I wouldn't
    3 Stars: My dog and I eat here regularly
    4 Stars: This place is too classy to bring my dog
    5 Stars: Top notch
  • Bravely Default has a short party chat with Edea Lee late-game. Sage Yulyana has been pestering her to cook something every time they visit, on the grounds of "a young lady's cooking is better, and Agnès, given her upbringing, couldn't very well boil water. He'd probably be better off with unboiled water.
    Edea: He [Yulyana] gave it to the dog!
    Tiz: Actually, the dog left it for the cat to eat.
    Agnès: And then the cat left it for a crow.

    Web Comics 
  • Freefall variation: A cockroach does eat from Sam's plate in The Golden Trough, but dies immediately afterwards.
  • One Curtailed comic where Fox and Mandy went camping showed some opossums digging through their backpack of MREs and tossing them aside.

    Web Original 
  • Counter Monkey: the Peter Piper Pizza that Noah found in the game store bathroom. Despite being in there for over a month, it was perfectly pristine. Even bacteria wouldn't touch it.

    Western Animation 
  • In an episode of Arthur, the titular character and his little sister D.W. complain to themselves about their grandma's cooking. D.W. attempts to give some olive-loaf to Pal, their dog. He refuses it and D.W. responds with "That dog's not as dumb as he looks."
  • In an episode of Ozzy and Drix, Hector did a science project on what cafeteria food his dog wouldn't touch. Turned out to be 'all of it'.
  • In a non-animal example, The Simpsons episode with the sugar ban saw the police burning every bit of candy in Springfield. When they throw the Butterfingers bars into the fire, they get thrown right back out. This actually got the show in trouble, as the company that made Butterfingers was one of their major sponsors (And had several Simpsons-themed commercials) - up until they aired that episode.
    Chief Wiggum: Even the fire won't take them.
  • In one episode of Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends, Bloo makes way too many cookies to the point where they're getting nasty. A man drops one of the cookies on the ground. A dog is then shown trying to sniff it, but gets disgusted by it.
  • Garfield and Friends:
    • Garfield combats a rodent infestation by serving them Jon's latest experimental dish. They eat a few bites before deciding that it's too awful for them and leave.
      Rat: I know you cats were sneaky, but I didn't think you'd stoop to rat poison!
    • In several episodes, people who have HORRIBLE cooking are demonstrated how horrible their cooking is by having even Garfield refuse to eat them. An example being Papa Plastique's pizza, which is so inedible as to seem to be made of plastic.
  • In The Ren & Stimpy Show episode "Ren's Toothache", Ren's halitosis becomes so foul that even the Tooth Beaver and the flies can't stand it.
  • In an episode of SpongeBob SquarePants, it is shown that Plankton's last customer was a rat who died afer eating his food. What a rat was doing Under the Sea is anyone's guess.
  • In an episode of Rugrats, Susie's homemade Reptar bar snacks are so bad even Spike ran away after smelling one.
  • In one cartoon, Pepe Le Pew finally realizes he smells bad when a sewer rat climbs out of a manhole, takes a sniff, and keels over in his wake.
  • The Secret Saturdays: Even Komodo spits out the hair sandwich Drew makes Doc in "The Vengeance of Hibagon".
  • In an Animaniacs skit that parodies Les Misérables, the innkeeper and Keeper of the Cats (the skit's answer to Monsieur Thernardier) makes pies that are so bad, even the Inspector's dog is disgusted by them. (The inspector tells him, off the record, that with the proper seasoning, cats can be rather tasty; not coincidentally, Fantine and Valjean are represented by Rita and Runt, respectively, in the skit.)
  • In an episode of Monsters vs. Aliens, Sqweep tries to make food for Vornicarn, but he won't eat it. Extreme Omnivore B.O.B. has a taste, and is so disgusted he tears off his own tongue and tosses it in the trash.
  • In the Clarence episode "Jeff Wins" a flashback to one of Jeff's cooking contest freak-outs shows him tossing his entry to the pigs, who then throw it back.

    Real Life 
  • Although rats are omnivorous and can consume nearly anything humans do, they dislike the taste of apples and won't eat them unless they're exceptionally hungry.
  • Some sugar substitutes aren't tasty for insects. Consequently, vermin can ignore "sweet" products, which naturally begs for jokes along the line of "flies scornfully turn away from X".
  • MRE (Meal, Ready-to-Eat) is the US Armed Forces' combat ration, but we know them as as Meals Refused by the Enemy/Ethiopians/Everyone. Also joked as "three lies for the price of one" (it's not a meal, it's not ready, and you wish you didn't have to eat it). They're also notorious for their lack of fiber, resulting in them also being referred to as Meals Reluctant to Excrete. Well, that was mainly in the '80s, when they were first introduced. Since then, they've become better and more edible. Still just as constipation-inducing, though, which can be a good or bad thing depending on how comfortable you are with doing your business in the field.
  • Army food in general has this reputation even though it's no longer true. Even at training forts, where the vast majority of eaters have to inhale it so fast they don't get to taste it. It's the same reputation that hospital food has, but an Army hospital has even better food, and so do most VA hospitals.
  • The Soviet Army's "bigos". Unlike the quite yummy Polish cabbage stew that gave it the name, it was the most vile, revolting and barely not-rotting sauerkraut imaginable. Made in huge quantities with a total disregard for any recipe or technology by the soldiers themselves, it was widely used as a cheap-ass "vitamin supplement" and universally despised by anyone involved, except the intendants — it was cheap and easy to bulk-up for the stolen other ingredients.
  • The Japanese have a nice, succinct little word for this trope as it applies to fish: "nekomatagi", which loosely translated means "even the cat won't touch it".
  • As the story goes, natto was discovered when horse feed had gone so bad the horses wouldn't eat it anymore. For those who don't know what natto is, imagine if you left a bowl of beans to rot-er, ferment until you have something that is half-bean, half-foul-smelling-paste.
  • In the German military, it used to be said that the potato bags delivered to the army kitchens were marked with "Nur für Schweinemast oder Bundeswehr", translated: "Only suitable for pig feeding or Federal Army".
  • In a morbid offshoot of this trope, some diseases (for instance, a historic plague in Athens) are sufficiently unpleasant that vultures won't eat the victims.
  • Some genetic modifications aim at averting vermin from crops (e.g. the potato and the Colorado potato beetle). Some people regard this as an argument against eating said crops themselves.
  • Even cockroaches won't go near a meth lab.
  • In general, any leaf, stem, or root with a strong taste tastes that way to dissuade consumption. For example, very few animals will touch mint. The main reason that humans can stomach mint or most spices is because we usually eat at most one spoonful with our entire meal, as opposed to trying to eat half a kilogram of it all at once. A dash of chili pepper in your dinner is tasty. A whole bowl full of raw habanero is just plain masochistic.
  • Unlike most products made with flour, Passover matzah never spoils (as long as it stays dry) because even mold spores won't eat it. Likewise, hardtack or sea biscuit. It'll keep forever as long as it's kept dry, but calling it bland is being very charitable.
  • Plastics. Just about anything organic can be consumed by bacteria, fungi, or a combination thereof. Non-degradable plastics are a problem because no microorganisms have gotten around to figuring out how to digest the stuff. Bacteria have been discovered that can eat nylon, or at least some of the byproducts from its manufacture.
  • During the Cold War, at least one of the superpowers used dead rats to mark dead drops. Animals (like cats) ate the rats. So they used hot sauce to prevent them from eating the dead rats, and it worked.
  • Fish sauce. It's so loaded with salt and vinegar, that once the fermentation process needed to make it is complete, bacteria simply don't want a piece of that action. Despite being made with anchovies, it does not need to be refrigerated, even after it's been opened.