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Mutagenic Food
"You are what you eat" said a wise old man,
Lord, if that's true I'm a garbage can.
Victor Buono, "The Fat Man's Prayer"

"You are what you eat", as the saying goes. In fiction, this is often taken literally, with a character eating something that causes them to transform into whatever it was they just ate, or the creature it came from (for example, a character may start growing feathers after eating a chicken egg). Can be a source of Nightmare Fuel when used in a children's show.

This is often given some sort of Hand Wave in that the food was genetically modified/exposed to radiation/infected with The Virus/of alien origin/past its use-by date.

This trope may also apply to abilities and behaviour associated with the food source, for example, eating brains may supposedly make one more intelligent, or eating a beef patty may make them start mooing and eating grass.

Note that this differs from You Are Who You Eat, in that the latter trope is about characters who can do this with their food as an inherent ability. This trope is for when the food itself has these special properties.

A newly-transformed sentient pile of food will often discover that it tastes delicious . See also: Cereal Induced Superpowers. A Sister Trope of May Contain Evil. Can occur because of Tampering with Food and Drink.


Examples

    open/close all folders 

     Anime and Manga  

  • Wapol from One Piece can do this thanks to eating the Munch-Munch Fruit (Baku Baku no Mi).

     Comic Books  

     Film  

  • In John Carpenter's film The Thing (1982), even a single cell of the title monster can convert a living creature into a Thing. One of the scientists suggests that everyone prepare their own food and eat out of cans so a Thing can't contaminate a human's food with itself.

     Literature  

  • In Royal Jelly, a short story by Roald Dahl, the eponymous substance slowly transforms a baby into a Queen bee larva.
  • In Stephen King's short story Grey Matter, a can of contaminated beer turns a man into a shambling fungoid horror.
  • In a roundabout way this happens in Dr Franklins Island. Semi, at that point a small manta ray-like creature, is presented with the chance to become human again. To that end powder is poured into her pool, and she notes that consuming it is just like consuming plankton - like breathing, basically. She and Miranda speculate that the powder is dried up human DNA.

     Live Action TV  

     Stand Up Comedy  

     Video Games  

  • A character in Chrono Cross ("Funguy") eats a special mushroom that transforms him into a half-human, half-mushroom person.
  • Some raw meat chunks in Dungeon Crawl can cause a random mutation if eaten. They are thankfully labeled as such and prompt a warning if you try to eat it.
  • Monster meat in the Shiren the Wanderer series transforms you into the monster the meat came from, giving you all of the powers of the original monster. You can also use the meat on enemies by throwing it at them; this can be exploited by throwing meat from The Goomba. Of course, monsters don't drop this meat normally; you have to kill them with Bufu's Staff, or better, Bufu's Cleaver, neither of which are easy to get.
  • Corruption of Champions has this as a major game mechanic. Various items and potions can bestow transformations on you, slowly turning you into animal or monstrous forms representative of their origin. "Canine Peppers", for example, subtly alter your physiology into a more... canine form, while "Whisker Fruit" makes you more catlike. Items of opposed species will soon cancel out each other's transformations- and overdosing on certain transformation items will turn you permanently into that animal, resulting in a bad ending for you.

     Western Animation  

  • In Evolution: The Animated Series, Wayne ended up spending the series mutating into a new form Once per Episode after accidentally eating one of the alien cells in the first episode.
  • In an episode of The Powerpuff Girls, a boy transforms into a giant glue moster after eating radioactive glue.
  • In the Courage the Cowardly Dog pilot "The Chicken From Outer Space", eating alien eggs causes Eustace to transform into a monstrous chicken man.
  • The Magic School Bus showed a Real Life example with carrots. Arnold ate nothing but carrot-based snacks for days and turned orange.
  • When Silkie, the Teen Titans' Team Pet was introduced, he ate some of Starfire's alien zorkaberries, which promptly turned him into an unstoppable (though still cuddly) behemoth.
  • An episode of The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius has Jimmy, Sheen and Carl venture into the Bahama Quadrangle and meet with a mysterious scientist named Dr. Moist. There, they find that he lures people there to feed them a mutagenic seaweed that turns them into seaweed monsters, and only a special antidote that he drinks with his weed can reverse the effects.

     Real Life  

  • Some opposers of GMO food fear this is true whenever food includes "mutations" (or even "DNA"). Mutations however happen spontaneously in all living organisms, allowing for such things as natural evolution.
    • There could be a infinitisimally small chance that not all the vectors used for transgenic modification were integrated into the nuclei of the GMO, but the stomach produces enzymes that break down DNA (which is why Jurassic Park is full of it).
  • Eating too many carrots, or anything else with beta-carotene, can cause your skin cells to absorb the pigment, causing you to turn carrot-coloured. Drinkers of Sunny Delight have also suffered this - Bonus Points for the story being reported just as an advert showed a snowman drinking the beverage and turning yellow as a result.

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