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Clean Food, Poisoned Fork

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"It was already in the glass, not in the jar."
Mags Bennett, Justified

Face it, if someone's a good target for assassination, they almost certainly know it. They'll expect their food to be poisoned. So instead, poison the cutlery, or the glass. That way, when they eat the proven-safe food (or pretend to eat the food they can't risk testing), they'll get the poison that way. This also provides a way to poison one person at a large gathering: No matter how many people are eating the food or drinking the beverages, only one person will do so with a specific set of cutlery.

A twist on Tampering with Food and Drink.

Compare and contrast Finger-Licking Poison, where the assassin poisons non-food-related items like book pages, envelopes or postage stamps. May go hand in hand with the Self-Poisoning Gambit, where the poisoner eats or drinks something to lull their target into believing it isn't poisoned.

Not to be confused with a Dirty Fork.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Case Closed, the story "Karaoke Box Murder Case" had Tatsuya Kimura being poisoned by Mari Terahara using potassium cyanide, with the poison kept on Tatsuya's jacket. The poison was applied to the place's Tatsuya was known to handle his jacket whenever he took it off, before he ate using his hands and ended up being poisoned to death.
  • Flame of Recca: One of the enemies in the SODOM city, Marie, poses herself as a seemingly harmless high class lady but is actually a dominatrix. She usually fools her victim by offering them tea, but when her victim was rightfully suspicious that the tea is drugged, she drinks it anyway and doesn't lose her consciousness. But when her victim actually drinks it, they somehow got drugged anyway and ends up as Marie's toy for her Dominatrix fetish. Only Domon somehow escaped this trick by accidentally discovering that Marie always drinks on a certain spot that wasn't poisoned and he happened to drink on that position because his perverted mind kicked in and attempted an 'indirect kiss'. In the PS2 game that covers this story, Domon can still fall victim of this by drinking first, thus he wouldn't even accidentally drink on the safe spot.
  • In an early story arc of In Another World with My Smartphone, the protagonist Touya has to solve the mystery of who poisoned the King of Belfast. The main suspect was an ambassador from Mismede, a nation of beast-kin, as she gave the wine that was supposedly poisoned. Touya reveals what it was the king's drinking glass that was poisoned, with the mastermind being a xenophobic noble who was trying to kill any potential alliance between Belfast and Mismede.
  • Done in Rappi Rangai in an attempted assassination of the first princess, Hibari, with poisoned chopsticks.

    Comic Books 
  • Batman: When he was director of Arkham Asylum, Professor Milo served a cup of tea to a disguised Batman. Although Batman did not drink it, it turned out Milo had coated the cup handle with a contact poison.
  • The Maze Agency: In "The Adventure of the Chinese Dissident", the Victim of the Week is poisoned despite drinking from a sealed can of soda he opened himself. The killer actually poisoned the pop top of the can when he handed it to the victim, so the victim poisoned the soda when when he pressed the tab down into the can to open it.
  • Murena: The comic goes with the theory that the Roman Emperor Claudius was poisoned, not by the mushrooms he'd eaten but by a poisoned feather stuck down his throat in order to get him to vomit up the (supposedly venomous) mushrooms.
  • Sleepless: Poppy feels a certain degree of paranoia after two assassination attempts against her, and so she has her pet fox Bini check all her meals for poison before she consumes them. When Bini refuses to eat food from Poppy's plate at the post-tournament banquet (with all the food arriving from the kitchens on communal platters), Poppy believes her plate has been poisoned. She "accidentally" spills a goblet of wine over the suspicious plate to avoid causing a scene by refusing to eat from it, and when she is served a new plate Bini deems it safe. Poppy's suspicions turn out to be justified when the maid who served her the first plate is found dead. The maid's fingertips are shriveled and blackened from where she had carelessly touched the poison and a bribe of silver coins is found under her mattress.

    Fan Works 
  • In The Adventures of Lara Croft & David Connors, "Family Matters" arc, David is kidnapped by Lara's cousin, Johnathan and stuck in a cell. When he's given food, he suspects it's poisoned and checks it out. After confirming it isn't, he starts to use the fork provided but stops himself short before he touches the food with it. Sniffing it, he realizes that the fork had been poisoned as a means to trick him. He throws it aside and is forced to use his hands to eat. Which is what his kidnapper wanted to "...Eat like the caveman that he is".
  • In the Discworld as envisaged by A.A. Pessimal, Joan Sanderson-Reeves teaches Domestic Science at the Assassins' Guild School. As well as the use of creative and innovative food additives, she also points out there is a lot the intelligent Assassin can do with what could be called the peripherals. It is instructive how a client will go to great lengths to ensure their cup of tea is safe and untainted. And then add a sugar cube to it. Joan also approves of the pupil who used what the client thought were chocolate sprinkles on the top of his frothy coffee - and got him to sprinkle them on for himself. The porous fabric of which teabags are made has its opportunities, for instance, and do not scorn the hollow handle in the teaspoon, which on contact with hot liquid releases a measured quantity of something interesting into the beverage.
  • Harry Potter and the Nightmares of Futures Past: With Harry's help, Arthur Weasley launches a successful raid on the Malfoys, and one of the items he finds in their mansion is a set of knives that is both poisoned and enchanted to make the user clumsy. If you somehow avoid cutting yourself and dying that way, then the food you prepare with them will just kill you slower.
  • Done in the Ranma ½ fanfic Nekophilia with chopsticks.
  • In Seasons Of My Love, an Alternate Universe fanfic transporting A Song of Ice and Fire characters into the Sun King's court, Sansa is poisoned when Aqua Tofana is added to her spoon's polish.

    Film - Live Action 
  • In Death Becomes Her, part one of Helen's elaborate plan to eliminate Madeline involves coating one of each type of wine glass in the cabinet with an alcohol-based drug, so they can arrange for her to get it at dinner and Helen and Ernest can drink safely. None of it goes down as planned, Ernest just pushes Madeline down the stairs.
  • In The Mechanic, a character dies from drinking from a poisoned wine glass.
  • In Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, it's implied that Moriarty kills Irene Adler by applying poison to her tea strainer.

  • The Belgariad: In The Malloreon, Sadi manages to finally get rid of an annoying minor villain by poisoning the spoon he's going to use at a banquet, having observed during previous meals that the target always sat at the same place every single time.
  • In The Bridge Kingdom Archives as a part of her plot to get out of the compound alive, Lara covers the soup spoons with a powerful narcotic. However, since she does not know where exactly is she herself going to be seated, first she builds immunity to it.
  • The Cobra Trilogy: An especially indirect method is used by the Qasamans. After the expedition from the Cobra Worlds has arranged for the release of some of their party taken hostage and safe passage offplanet, the captives are offered food. They decline to eat it for fear of poison, and then see the hand retrieving the tray from their cell was gloved. The food wasn't poisoned, but the tray was... and not with a poison, but with a disease meant to infect who the Qasamans believe are hostile invaders.
  • In The Count of Monte Cristo, it's explained that the Borgias used something like this for their inexplicable "only the intended victim dies" poisonings: the cup used has a special compartment containing the poison, but it only opens if a button is pressed on the cup. So the Borgia could drink from the cup first to prove neither the wine nor the cup was poisoned, then pass it to the target after pressing the button.
  • Discworld:
    • In Feet of Clay, the Patrician is being slowly poisoned with arsenic and the Watch has to figure out how the poison is being administered. After ruling out poison in the food, Vimes wonders if the poisoner is making cutlery out of arsenic. Cheery explains this would only work if you could ignore the spoon instantly dissolving in the soup.
    • In Nanny Ogg's Cookbook, the Patrician's recipe for bread and water includes not just having seperate food tasters for both, but also choosing a random plate from a selection, and having someone lick the others.
  • The Elder Scrolls In-Universe Books: In A Game at Dinner, Prince Hlaalu Helseth of Morrowind holds a banquet, and then informs the guests after the meal that he has poisoned the cups and cutlery of those who were spying on him for other nobles. He offers a glass of antidote to anyone who confesses. The "antidote" is actually the poison; the man who takes it, and admits to spying for Helseth's stepsister the Queen of Wayrest, dies in agony. The anonymous narrator, himself a spy for Helseth's vassal House Dres, remains silent and is horrified enough by the experience to beg his mistress for reassignment.
  • Five Minute Mysteries: Story #25 of the 40 collected shorts in Utterly Ingenious Five Minute Mysteries, "The Kid's Idea", asks readers to discern from a short script excerpt how a Contessa in historical Venice manages to poison a Cardinal who is already suspicious of her. She offers him a goblet of wine, but he will only drink from her goblet after she's taken a sip. She offers him fruit, but he will only take an apple from a basket she hasn't touched. She offers to split the apple with him as a show of good faith, and he only allows her to do so after spinning it in place several times (to make sure that if it's been poisoned on one side, she won't know which). After she cuts the apple and bites into her half, he takes a bite of his and promptly succumbs to a fast-acting poison. The Contessa poisoned the knife she used to cut the apple, but only on one side.
  • In Hitman: Enemy Within, 47 rules out poisoning his target's food or utensils/dishware. The target has a severe peanut allergy and has his security control everything involved in his meals, from the ingredients to the cooking/eating utensils and dishware. His mistress's food, not so much. 47 sprays the mistress's salad with peanut oil and when she kisses the target, he goes into anaphylactic shock and dies.
  • Marcus Didius Falco:
    • In Venus in Copper, when the landlord Hortensius Novus is murdered with poison, it turns out that all the suspects independently tried to murder him (his own family with a poisoned cake, his business rival with poisoned spices to be added to the wine), but the actual murderer was his fiance, who put a glaze on the poisoned plate the cakes were served on, knowing that gluttonous Novus would lick the plate clean once the meal was done, exposing the poison.
    • The Course of Honour has Antonia Caenis (Vespasian's longtime lover and confidante) witnessing Nero's assassination of Britannicus; instead of poisoning Britannicus's mulled wine, Nero's assassin poisoned the cold water intended to cool his throat, which was not tasted in advance of Britannicus drinking it (see Real Life, below).
  • In Phoenix Rising, Kyri is suspicious enough of a person who offers her a drink that she only pretends to drink it; it turns out that the drink itself was fine, but the glass it was served in was enchanted to knock out the person who picked it up. Specifically, as the glass's owner explains during the ensuing Evil Gloating session, all the glasses in the set are enchanted to do a knock-out when touched to female lips, which saves him having to mess around with having one drugged glass for his guest and a safe glass for himself... and raises disquieting questions about why he would happen to own a set of glasses like that in the first place.
  • Realm of the Elderlings: In Assassin's Apprentice, one of Fitz-Chivalry's assassination ploys was to poison the cutlery instead of the food.
  • In Red Seas Under Red Skies, Archon Stragos tricks the protagonists into drinking his wine after taking the first drink from the bottle, just to reveal afterwards that he had brushed the poison onto their cups instead.
  • Redwall: In Outcast of Redwall, Swartt uses this trope so he can convince Lord Bowfleg that the wine isn't poisoned by drinking some of it straight from the bottle (the poison is smeared on the goblet which they drink from). He tries it on three separate targets, though the third would-be victim catches on, forcing him to find a different method of disposal.
  • The Roman Mysteries: In The Sirens of Surrentum, Locusta, a master poisoner, tells of a murder she heard about. The victim was given food with mild poison, but when they made themselves throw up using a feather they died from the lethal poison applied to the feather's tip.
  • One character in Skulduggery Pleasant takes out an assassin by giving them a poisoned cup of tea. Not "a cup of poisoned tea", which the assassin anticipated, but a cup of tea with contact poison on the handle.
  • Inverted in The Stormlight Archive. Kasbal tries to assassinate Princess Jasnah with a snack of bread and jam. Since he knew that Jasnah doesn't like jam and her ward Shallan does, he poisoned the bread and put the antidote in the jam, and safely ate both. Jasnah incorrectly guessed that the jam was poisoned and Soulcast it into a disgusting concoction to get out of eating it. Without the antidote, Kasbal died, Jasnah saved herself and Shallan using Soulcasting on their blood.
  • A short story in Tales of the Bounty Hunters had Boba Fett sharing some wine with Dengar, and putting a drug on the rim of the glass. (Fett used a straw. This also allowed him to keep his helmet on, not revealing his face to Dengar.)

    Live-Action TV 
  • The 100: In "Remember Me", the Sky People and the Grounders are having a summit to negotiate an alliance against the Mountain Men. The Sky People bring a bottle of liquor as a gift to the Grounders' Commander. The Commander's advisor insists on trying it first; moments later he seizes up and passes out, and the apparent assassination attempt has predictable results. Later it's proven that the drink wasn't poisoned, it was the cup in a gambit by the advisor himself to disrupt the alliance.
  • In the Burn Notice episode "Double Booked", Larry tried to kill a woman by spraying her fork with atropine. Michael knew him well enough to anticipate that and had it replaced with a regular fork, and then faked an emergency. Larry was sincerely impressed when he realized Michael saved the woman, and, since the guy who hired him was dead by his own hand and Larry already got the money for the hit, didn't bother trying again.
  • Defiance: In "Everything is Broken", Stahma offers Kenya a drink from her flask when she is threatening to tell everyone about them sleeping together. Kenya is smart enough to realise that it may be poisoned and doesn't take a drink. Unfortunately, the outside of the flask was coated in poison.
  • Father Brown: In "The House of God", part of the mystery is how the Victim of the Week was poisoned when everyone at the the dinner, including Mrs McCarthy, had been served wine from the same bottle and no one else suffered any ill effects. Until Mrs McCarthy remembers that the victim had been the only one handed a specific glass when she arrived and was served a drink...
  • In Justified when Mags Bennett shares a jar of her "apple pie" (i.e. moonshine) with Loretta's dad. As he's dying, she reveals that his glass had been poisoned before the drink was poured. In the last episode of the season, she uses the same trick to convince Raylan to have a drink with her, the twist being that Mags drinks from the poisoned glass rather than go to prison.
  • An episode of Murder, She Wrote has Jessica attend a party in Hong Kong, where the host dies after dipping century egg and ginger in vinegar. It turns out that it was the glazing of the plate was laced with poison and the host died from eating it when he dipped his egg and ginger in the vinegar.
  • Only Murders in the Building: In the season one finale, Charles knows that Jan killed Tim Kono by poisoning his drink, so he only takes stage sips of the drink she offers him. What he doesn't suspect, however, is that she put poison on the handkerchief she gave him for his bloody nose.
  • In one series of Taggart, a serial killer uses snake venom to poison his victims, and in a scene near the end of the series, it's revealed that he administers the poison by sharing a meal with the victim and poisoning the victim's spoon.

  • In Cabin Pressure, one of Douglas's Birling Day heists relies on concealing the location of some very good whisky by disguising it as bad whisky. He paints Bitrex on the whisky glasses.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Parodied in the Paranoia supplement Acute Paranoia. In the "Outland-ISH" adventure, the Troubleshooters must find out who is drugging the citizens in ISH sector. When they ask one of the victims if the drug is in the water, the victim jokingly says "No, it's on the inside of the cups. Of course it's in the water!"

    Video Games 
  • Subverted in Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney. A coffee mug found at the scene of a poisoning has traces of poison on its rim, while the coffee is confirmed untouched. However, it's later revealed that the victim had ingested the poison from a different source and drank from the cup later, leaving a trace amount of poison on the rim.
  • A Game at Dinner, a recurring book in the The Elder Scrolls series, tells of a paranoid prince who poisons suspected spies this way, and offers them an antidote — the idea, of course, being that by taking the antidote, they'll be admitting to their treason. He lied, though. Not being certain who was his enemy, and not wanting to poison someone loyal and lose his Magnificent Bastard status, he poisoned only the so-called "antidote".
  • In Wings of Dawn, Thomas' Poison and Cure Gambit involves faking giving his allies-of-questionable-allegiance a slow-acting poison and rationing out the antidote to keep them alive so that they can't betray him anyway. Since none of them trust him, either, though, he's not allowed to prepare the food — but he is allowed to set out the plates.
  • The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings: Near the beginning of the Iorveth path of Chapter 2, Saskia is poisoned. Their cup was replaced with a replica that would release a powerful poison into whatever is put into it.

    Visual Novels 
  • In The Royal Heir, Book 1, it is revealed that the poison in the wine that killed Liam's mother actually came from the goblet used to serve it. note 

    Web Video 
  • 7-Second Riddles: The solution to one murder puzzle was that the victim's ice-cream spoon was poisoned; it was the only time she was eating food the others with her didn't directly touch, as they each had their own ice-cream.

    Western Animation 
  • In Season 4 of Archer, Archer himself gets drugged by a sedative-coated wine glass in "The Wind Cries Mary", and the Albanian ambassador is assassinated by a more lethal wineglass in "Live and Let Dine".
  • During the first appearance of Lady Dokuso in Carmen Sandiego, she poisons a pair of chopsticks, knowing that Shadow-Shan will use them as an Improvised Weapon. It works and prevents Shadow-Shan from being effective for much of the episode....not that it wouldn't matter, as he was actually bait the entire time.

    Real Life 
  • Emperor Nero had his cousin, adoptive brother and step-brother and potential rival Britannicus poisoned despite his food being checked by a food taster. Instead of poisoning the wine he was drinking, the assassin added the poison to the water used to cool the wine after Britannicus felt it was too hot.
  • Pope Alexander VI, part of the infamous Borgia family, apocryphally had a wine chalice with a hidden compartment full of poison. That way, he could drink from the cup to prove it's safe, flick the switch, and give it to his placated victim.
  • The reason tomatoes were considered poisonous in the 1800s was because royalty would eat them on pewter plates, made out of lead. The tomato's acidity would cause the lead to leak out and contaminate the food. Without knowing of lead's toxicity, the reasoning behind this prior conclusion did seem fairly sound from a botanical standpoint; the royalty blamed the tomatoes instead of the plate, because they belong to the same family as deadly nightshade, another famously toxic plant, and the stems and leaves of the tomato plant actually are toxic.
  • A common lateral-thinking puzzle: Two women go to a restaurant and order iced tea. The first woman drinks quickly and has knocked back multiple glasses in the time it took for the second to drink one. The first woman survives while the second dies, and it's later determined that all beverages sent to their table were poisoned. How did the first woman escape the poison despite drinking more? The poison was in the ice. The first woman drank too fast for the ice to melt, while the second woman's ice melted and the poisonous water was mixed into her tea.