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The Food Poisoning Incident

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"It's food poisoning. I have it too. I did not sleep for one second last night, and I cracked the bottom of the toilet bowl."
Ron Swanson, Parks and Recreation

Someone eats bad food and doesn't know it. Sometimes, they think they ate bad food and panic. Occasionally, are horrified that they fed their family bad food. Once in a while, it will be seemingly Ripped from the Headlines (the All in the Family example came not long after a botulism scare on the east coast). If you have a Lethal Chef in your cast, count on at least one scene like this to happen during the course of the work.

May be considered a Sub-Trope to Amusing Injuries.

Compare to Cowboy Bebop: Mushroom Samba.

May overlap with Last Day to Live. May lead to a Vomit Chain Reaction, as with the 6teen example. For media that tries to go the extra-gross route, such as in Bridesmaids, it may also lead to massive Potty Failure.

Often Played for Laughs, although it can be Played for Drama if the outbreak ends up killing people.


It is suggested that this may be because the symptoms are usually of the distressing-cum-embarrassing sort (nausea, diarrhea, vomiting), and in part because of anxiety over E. coli and the like. Either way, it's a pointed reminder of how much we rely upon our bodies. "For surely laughter masks a nervous soul."

Some shows seem to use this trope especially. It has been observed that The Simpsons use it to shift the Character Focus of the episode by eliminating not needed characters. Examples: the oysters eliminated everyone leaving only Bart & Skinner, on whom the episode was focused. (They even acknowledged that it made no sense that Lisa got ill but they just Hand Waved it.) The vegetables make the whole family sick, so Lisa started her singing career.

Compare Water Source Tampering, Tampering with Food and Drink and Way Past the Expiration Date which all can lead up to this trope.



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    Anime and Manga 
  • In Fullmetal Alchemist, during their training under Izumi, Ed and Al come across some wild mushrooms and soon regret eating them. Later on, we see them figuring out how to not have that happen again, providing the Trope Image (see above).
  • One Piece: After days of starving in the Whole Cake Island arc, when the crew finally manages to catch a giant fish, Luffy digs right in before he can learn from Chopper that the fish's skin is extremely poisonous. Nami manages to cook it into something edible, but Luffy is soon left on the floor in agony. It's at first Played for Laughs as Luffy often puts himself in situations like that due to being an Idiot Hero, yet comes out no worse for the wear later. However, it's soon afterwards Played for Drama when the crew realizes that Luffy's condition is becoming extremely serious. Fortunately, they meet someone who manages to Suck Out the Poison, curing Luffy.
  • The episode "Mushroom Samba" of Cowboy Bebop has Faye eat a box of emergency rations that spoilt "A year ago". Lucky for her she ends up with just stomach cramps.
  • In Tokyo Ghoul, a side story focuses on the romantic misadventures of Misato Gori. In order to win the affections of her secret crush, she repeatedly cooks up batches of.....sweets. Burnt, misshapen horrors that no one in their right mind would mistake for donuts or cookies. Over the course of the story, she gives food poisoning to multiple Branches of the CCG, resulting in a company-wide message advising people to be careful because of recent bouts of wide-spread illness. Misato remains clueless of her actions.
  • Happened before the beginning of Majin Tantei Nougami Neuro in a neighborhood festival when Haruka, Yako's mom unknowingly sent 95% of the people who ate her pork soup into hospital. Never mind the fact that they somehow missed that the color of said soup was silver.
  • Dragon Ball has Goku and Krillin competing in a training exercise involving bringing back a marked rock thrown by Master Roshi. Krillin wins by tricking Goku into chasing a fake rock, but Goku has the last laugh as everyone but him winds up being laid up for three days with food poisoning from badly prepared fugu courtesy of Lunch.

    Comic Books 
  • A bizarre Played for Drama example occurs in Gilbert Hernandez's graphic novel Julio's Day (first serialized in Love and Rockets). Julio's father bites into a bean taco that, although wrapped, has become contaminated with "blueworms" in a mudslide. He immediately bleeds profusely from the eyes and staggers around in delirium, until an eccentric elderly couple saves his life with a folk remedy. The father later has a relapse of the food poisoning and dies from the same symptoms; worse yet, he's inadvertently passed the incurable infection to Julio's brother.
  • In Bone, what got the Bone Cousins chased out of Boneville was that at Phoney's disastrous campaign picnic, he served prune tarts he got from a discount prune dealer. After the giant Phoney-baloon went amok, the "Bad prunes kicked in". As Smiley later states, they gave the entire town a case of the 'Fast Sallies, though Fone Bone implies that this was just The Last Straw after many of Phoney's Noodle Incidents.
  • A Running Gag in Asterix is the quality (Or lack thereof) of the fish sold by fish-monger Unhygenix, and the fights that start when discussing it. In Asterix and the Great Crossing, Vitalstatistix complains that the fish have made his shield-bearers too sick to carry him. We learn shortly after that instead of doing his own fishing, Unhygenix gets his fish from sellers in Lutentia because they're better quality—even though the best quality fish will lose their freshness during a long trip from the city to the village.
  • In one Green Lantern story, Hal Jordan found his power ring going haywire and refusing to respond to his commands. He eventually discovers this was due to food poisoning from eating tainted mushrooms (with those who had consumed them being warned 'not to operate heavy machinery').

    Fan Works 
  • Emergency!:
    • Johnny's takeout poisons the firemen in "Leave No Stomach Unchurned''. Chet gets revenge by slipping him fluid extract of ipecac, but it's more potent than syrup of ipecac and makes John very sick.
    • In "Good Gravy'' , Chet gets everyone, including himself, sick when he uses mushrooms from his neighbor's yard in the Thanksgiving gravy.

    Film — Animated 

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Airplane!. Anyone who had fish for their in-flight dinner got a life-threatening case of food poisoning. Guess what the entire flight crew had.
  • In Bridesmaids there's a really gross food poisoning scene, although the protagonist claims it's a virus, as she's the one who suggested the restaurant.
  • Living in Oblivion: In one of the sequences, the chief cinematographer is made violently ill from spoiled milk left out on the craft service table.
  • Monty Python's The Meaning of Life ends with a dinner party where this happens to all the guests; a throw-away gag has it that one person who was affected didn't even eat the tainted item.
  • Please Give: It remains ambiguous if the elderly woman dies at the end from drinking tainted juice
  • SleeperWoody Allen is cryogenically frozen and revived 200 years later as a fugitive. He pleads that he never did anything wrong, that he was just an owner of a health food store—"occasionally a customer got botulism, but that was very rare!"
  • In Sunday School Musical, a massive food poisoning incident involving egg salad takes out the third choir in competition to go to State, meaning that Crossroads gets their chance despite being pretty lousy.

  • Aunt Dimity and the Family Tree has her father-in-law's housewarming party disrupted by eleventh-hour food poisoning at the caterer's firm; the narrator enlist help from the community to come up with the food.
  • A Billion for Boris: in this sequel to Freaky Friday, the reveal that the kid brother is in possession of a TV that sees 24 hours into the future is based on his knowing that a certain brand of soup has been recalled before anyone else does.
  • Played for Drama in The Fifth Season when Alabaster suffers botulism poisoning and only survives by hijacking Essun's Wrong Context Magic to purge his system. It's strongly implied to have been either Disproportionate Retribution from a minor Obstructive Bureaucrat whom he'd called out for her rudeness, or an assassination attempt by a local Mage Killer.
  • When recounting the various childhood accidents that could have killed him in his Mémoires, General Thiébault off-handedly mentions that a cook accidentally poisoned him and his family by confusing hemlock and fennel. Why she had hemlock in the first place, he never explains.
  • In the Sweet Valley High book "Crash Landing", Jessica takes cooking classes and decides to show off her newfound skills by cooking her family dinner. Unfortunately, she uses bad mussels and makes everyone ill, which they rather cruelly tease her about for several weeks afterwards, completely oblivious to how hurtful they're being.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Adventures of Pete & Pete: Little Pete pretends to get food poisoning from spoiled tapioca so he can play hooky.
  • All in the Family: Archie may or may not have eaten toxic mushrooms after a recall due to botulism. He ends up going to the ER for a painful anti-toxin injection. Afterwards, Edith realizes that they weren't the recalled brand to begin with.
  • In the The Big Bang Theory episode "The Celebration Reverberation", Sheldon makes an authentic pioneer meal for Amy's birthday, based on her love of Little House on the Prairie. They spend much of the rest of the episode throwing up, though by the end of the episode they've both recovered much enough to attend to Howard and Bernadette's house party and play in the bouncy house without any ill effects.
  • The entire Orlando Breakers team on Coach comes down with food poisoning, just before their game with the Buffalo Bills. Luther obtained free Buffalo chicken wings from "Buffalo Billy's" when the team was visiting. Hayden has to resort to pulling a team from the stands just to satisfy contractual obligations. (The Breakers were slaughtered.) He suspects the food was deliberately poisoned but when Luther asks Buffalo Billy, Billy gives an ambivalent "no."
  • In Emergency!, a guy got himself and his neighbors sick from undercooked bear meat in one episode, and another, "Botulism", is a sort of restaurant outbreak.
  • On Everwood, Bright and Hannah end up with a nasty case of it after eating poorly-stored fish Hannah made for dinner. They break out in rashes, develop high fevers and spend half the night throwing up.
  • In the Fawlty Towers episode "Basil the Rat", one of the catastrophes Basil Fawlty must deal with is the possibility that he has just served the health inspector a poisoned veal cutlet.
  • The George Lopez Show: Mentioned in "The Show Dyslexic".
    George: And I never gave [Max] anything except this fine head of hair! [beat] And salmonella, the one time I tried to make my own chicken fingers.
  • Happy Days: Chachi's mother has Howard & Marain Cunningham over for dinner, and inadvertently includes an ingredient in her pasta sauce that Marian is allergic to. Marian spends the rest of the evening in the bathroom.
  • On the season 6 finale of How I Met Your Mother, Lily gets sick after eating soup and Marshall, who had eaten the same soup, prepares for the inevitable effects to kick in, just as he's interviewing for his dream job. In the end nothing happens to Marshall, and it turns out it wasn't the soup that made Lily sick; she was pregnant.
  • In Kim's Convenience, Mr. Kim eats expired ravioli to prove to his daughter Janet that it's okay to eat. He ends up needing to go to the toilet for the majority of the day and thinks it's the ravioli. Janet gloats at first but also finds herself doing the same thing later. They figure out it's because of Mrs. Kim's galbijjim which they both ate, and they quickly call her to throw it out at a church event she's helping out at so no one else gets sick. She does throw it out and warn everyone, but not before her Sitcom Arch-Nemesis Mrs. Park takes a bite.
  • On Law & Order: Criminal Intent a food critic got food poisoning after eating at a new restaurant. The critic is then brutally beaten and the cops initially suspect that the chef who owns the restaurant tried to kill the critic before her review could ruin his restaurant. Goren quickly realizes that the chef is being framed and his ingredients were sabotaged in order to ruin his business.
  • Manhattan Love Story had an episode where both its leads were planning on having sex together for the first time following a meal. Unfortunately, they went to a second-rate oyster bar and both came down with severe food poisoning. However, they bonded more over this than they would've if they simply had sex.
  • Has happened to Bear Grylls on Man vs. Wild at least once. Not surprising, given all the dodgy stuff he eats.
  • A couple from M*A*S*H: In "The Yalu Brick Road", most of the camp gets samonella from some bad Thanksgiving turkeys that Klinger acquired. There is also an episode where Charles and Margaret eat a canned bird (pheasant?) and get ill.
  • In an episode of Murder, She Wrote, someone dies and some other people become ill after eating jelly at a restaurant in Cabot Cove. However, the murderer swapped out the restaurant's jelly for the poisoned one to kill a specific target and the only reason there was another victim was because they ate jelly from the contaminated container.
  • In The Nanny episode "Close Shave", C.C. Babcock is attending a cooking class and gets Maxwell Sheffield to try some of her cooking. He reluctantly does so, and ends up going to the hospital with food poisoning. Due to the food poison, he needs an appendectomy, and in preparation for surgery, the surgeon asks Fran Fine, disguised as a candy striper, to shave Maxwell...
  • Our Miss Brooks: Mrs. Davis is often a Cordon Bleugh Chef (try her Limburger omelet), but once she goes straight into Lethal Chef territory. "Pensacola Popovers", in the episode of the same name, are guaranteed to give man or beast gastric distress. Walter Denton tries one and is sick as a dog. Principal Osgood Conklin tries one, and goes home sick within a half an hour. Mr. Boynton's pet frog Mcdougall licks one, and is reduced to hopping around on his head in a frenzy.
    • Miss Brooks gives a few to Love Interest Mr. Boynton, in a plot to make him sick so she can nurse him back to health. Alas, Mr. Boynton's cast-iron stomach makes him immune. For awhile, at least. Mr. Boynton calls Miss Brooks as he needs someone to nurse . . . his pet frog Mcdougall. Eventually, the popovers have their effect, and Mr. Boynton faints away at the Biology Club luncheon and is taken to the hospital.
      Miss Brooks Well, what do you know? A delayed popover!
  • The mid-70s syndicated kids show Salty had an episode where they had to find someone who had eaten rancid food and didn't know it.
  • The entire Buffalo Bills starting offense (and all but one back-up quarterback) catching a severe case is the main premise of the TNT movie Second String.
  • Seinfeld: Jerry's girlfriend's mother gets sick when silica pack gets into the salsa placed out at Putamayo. By a typical turn of events, Jerry's number is on her speed dial under "Poison Control".
    Jerry: Poison control? That's even better than #1!...Hello?
    • In another episode, Kramer downs a carton of milk, which Jerry notices is past the expiration date. Cue Kramer vomiting up on George's girlfriend Susan.
  • In an episode of Sex and the City ("The Ick Factor"), Charlotte and Harry go out for a romantic dinner, but they both end up sick shortly thereafter. Rather than being played for laughs, the incident is really sweet, as it shows the two of them accepting and comforting each other in their distress.
  • All the adults except Hermes and Ms Selby eat some bad oysters in the "Follow The Leader" episode of Ship to Shore and the children are left in charge of the communications base while they puke their guts out.
  • In the Starsky & Hutch episode "The Game," Hutch gets botulism from a can of soup. By the time Starsky realizes what has happened, Hutch has gone into hiding for the weekend as part of an elaborate hide-and-seek game. Starsky frantically searches for him and finally finds him just as he is starting to fall seriously ill.
  • The Stockard Channing Show: Susan's boss at the Consumer Affairs local tv show she works on gets ptomaine poisoning and thinks it's because of a bad fallafel he gets from a fast food joint. It turns out it's from a high priced fine dining restaurant.
  • The "Groundhog Day" Loop episode of Supernatural where one of Dean's deaths is from a bad Taco.
  • What's Happening!! Rerun thinks he has gotten food poisoning from bad beef at Rob's. Dee explains later that it is actually appendicitis, and that Rerun had to get surgery
  • In one of the many instances of the show subtely playing on its name Schitt's Creek has an episode where David and Stevie pretend to be a honeymoon couple to get an upgraded room and free booze at a resort, only to suffer gastrointestinal issues from the Lovers Curry they are served at dinner. The friends end up with a story they can only tell each other.
  • Parks and Recreation: The episode Ann's Decision has Ben, Chris and even the usually invulnerable Ron suffering from a heavy bout of food poisoning brought on by bad mini-calzones. All three are in varying degrees of wanting to die when Tom (who didn't eat them) finds them.

    Mythology and Religion 
  • In the Book of Exodus, the Israelites complained that all they've had to eat lately is manna. God decrees that they'll get the meat they desire, but it will come out their nostrils, and they'll get sick of it, as punishment for their whining and insolence. They find quail, just waiting for them, and (just as God had said) everyone who ate the quail meat got sick. (It isn't known if it was actually a Mystical Plague, or just an account of run-of-the-mill food poisoning, which would have happened very easily in a camp full of people, in a hot desert climate easily conducive to food spoilage, with no refrigeration and very limited alternative means of food preservation, no antibiotics, no modern cooking practices, no modern sanitation practices, and no germ theory. Or an account of coturnism.)

    Professional Wrestling 
  • One WWE Smackdown skit in 2004 revolved around Eddie Guerrero giving The Big Show a tainted Burrito and then the lucky people in the audience got to watch Big Show plead for toilet paper while a fairly nasty fart recording was played.

    Video Games 
  • In Cake Mania 4: Main Street Jill, who's heavily implied to be pregnant, asks Tiny to serve her fugu. When she goes in for some tests later on, he thinks it was because of the fugu and rushes to the hospital.
  • Talking to Isabela near the docks in Dragon Age II results in her warning you never to eat the clams - she did and was sick for a whole week. Hawke can also remark upon being offered a drink by Merrill that s/he wouldn't drink the water. (Considering the technological era of the setting, and that cholera is mentioned to be a problem, that's a wise decision. Though Merrill does boil it. Several times. It wouldn't stop twitching.)
  • In Faria, the inhabitants of Ehdo get sick from feasting on poisoned caviar, and the player has to do a Fetch Quest to find the cure for them. This was all deliberately arranged by the Big Bad.
  • Happens in Fire Emblem Awakening during Kjelle's C support with any of her fathers; she made breakfast for the entire army and they wound up sick to their stomachs.
  • In Fruit Mystery, your character is either very stupid or completely insane and goes to a zoo and feeds human foods to the animals, often with darkly humorous results.
  • All games in The Sims series include food poisoning to some extent:
    • The Sims 1: With the Vacation expansion, having a Sim eat at a buffet table with low Hygiene will cause them to contract Montezuma's Revenge (also known as "Poopy Pants" in the game's code), which constantly drains their Bladder motive. The disease is not fatal and will go away after a while.
    • The Sims 2: There's a 10% chance a Sim eating burned food, spoiled food or out of a garbage can will contract food poisoning, which will make them constantly run to the bathroom to vomit and can be potentially fatal.
    • The Sims 3: Sims can get the "Nausea" moodlet from eating burned food, eating spoiled food, eating meat (if they have the "Vegetarian" trait), drinking plasma (if they're not a vampire) or after participating in an hot dog eating contest. Late Night introduces the "Food Poisoning" moodlet, but oddly enough, it only appears if a Sim eats from a food truck (15% chance, 30% if they have the "Snob" trait).
    • The Sims 4: The "Nausea" moodlet returns; it can be obtained by a Sim eating spoiled food or by a Vegetarian Sim eating meat. In Dine Out, Sims can sometimes get food poisoning after eating at a restaurant; they can call the restaurant to complain and potentially get monetary compensation.

    Web Animation 

    Web Original 
  • SCP Foundation: SCP-666½-J is an apocalyptically bad crab-stuffed mushroom entreé whose discovery as an SCP was one of these, and still unleashes multiple, serial and localized apocalypses on the digestive system of anyone that eats them.
    Object Class: Sweet mother of mercy is it ever Keter

    Western Animation 
  • In the 6teen episode "The Khaki Girl", an accidentally unplugged fridge results in a Vomit Chain Reaction that wreaks havoc through the entire shopping mall. The worst puking incident of all happens during a kiss.
  • In Alvin and the Chipmunks, Alvin wins a sweepstakes, and has to choose between two prizes: $500, or a mystery prize that could range anywhere from a free lunch to millions of dollars. The episode goes into a "what if" scenario showing what would happen if he picked either prize. If he picks the mystery prize, it ends up being a free lunch, where he gets food poisoning that weakens his vocal chords, forcing him to give up his singing career, and he along with his family and friends wind up spending the rest of their lives in poverty.
  • One episode of Beavis and Butt-Head had Beavis with a really nasty rash on his crotch, which he scratched frantically even while working at Burger World. Everyone in the restaurant ends up collapsing, and a news reports states that the virus strain is one they've never seen before.
  • One episode of The Fairly Oddparents involved Timmy's classroom getting food poisoning from a cake that Tad and Chad made for the student body presidential election. The only ones unaffected were Timmy himself and Principal Waxelplax (who is frosting intolerant).
  • King of the Hill has an episode where the supply of Alamo Beer delivered to Mexico has been tainted with some cleaning solution. Peggy finds out about it while taking on a temporary job as a call-center operator, and listens to complaints all day about vomiting and diarrhea caused by drinking the beer. Eventually she gets the executives at Alamo to admit their mistake and initiate a recall after sneaking some Mexican-market Alamo into a board meeting.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: In "Applebuck Season", a sleep-deprived Applejack tries to help Pinkie Pie with baking muffins, but gets the ingredients ridiculously wrong, replacing chocolate chips with potato chips, baking soda with soda pop, a cup of flour with "a cup of sour" (lemon juice), and wheat germ with "wheat worms" (earthworms from a mud puddle out back). As a result of the "baked bads", many ponies who tried the free muffins get extremely sick.
    Nurse Redheart: There was a mishap with some of the baked goods.
    Pinkie Pie: (queasy) No... not baked goods, baked bads!
  • One version of The Pied Piper Of Hamlin subverts all of the magical aspects of the original story with natural explanations, including that the piper hid his anger at being cheated then deliberately gave the village children a mild case of food poisoning which also had a mildly hypnotic effect on them. Dancing helped the children to eliminate the poison faster, and the hypnotic effect meant that the children followed the piper. (The piper collapsed the end of the tunnel after all the children were through, and stated his intention of selling them into indentured servitude elsewhere to get the money he'd been cheated out of).
  • The Simpsons, "Homer and Apu". Apu marks down some expired ham. Homer eats it and gets sick. Upon Homer's complaint, Apu offers him ten pounds of "frozen" shrimp. Homer eats it and gets sick.
    • In "One Fish, Two Fish, Blow Fish, Blue Fish", Homer eats improperly cut fugu and is told by Dr. Hibbert that he only has 22 hours left to live.
    • Inverted in "A Star Is Torn" when everyone in the family except Lisa gets food poisoning from eating an entirely organic vegetarian meal — when Bart asks why Lisa didn't get sick, Lisa explains that he and the rest of the family got sick because their bodies are so used to eating processed foods. Because of that, it's a shock for their bodies to have foods with "vitamins, minerals and trace amounts of bug feces," which Lisa, as a vegetarian, is used to eating.
    • In "Grade School Confidential", everyone except for Bart, Lisa, Skinner and Krabappel got sick from eating bad oysters at Martin Prince's birthday party (apparently, Martin's mom decided to oysters in lieu of a birthday cake). Bart didn't get sick because he fed his share of oysters to Martin's pet cat while Skinner and Krabappel didn't get sick because they were in Martin's pink playhouse at the time — when Bart questions how Lisa could've gotten sick (noting how she's a vegetarian and that oysters are technically meat), she explains that she simply wanted an excuse to leave without seeming rude.
    • Homer becomes a victim of this trope again in "Thirty Minutes over Tokyo" when he eats a tin of plankton at a 33 cent discount store.
    • "Selma's Choice" combines with Way Past the Expiration Date when Homer brought six-feet of a leftover party sub-sandwich home and continued eating it for weeks afterward, well after it had gone bad.
    • "Coming to Homerica" has the entire town sick after eating vegetarian Krustyburgers made with contaminated barley from nearby Ogdenville. This is just a Lead In for the main plot, about Ogdenvillians migrating into Springfield.
      • A similar incident appears in the "Treehouse of Horror XX" short "Don't Have a Cow, Mankind", with Krusty Burger's new Burger2 turning people into "Munchers".
    • "Worst Episode Ever" opens with Bart betting Homer he won't eat a box of baking soda that Homer thinks was in the house when they moved in. This leads to Homer having an "antacid trip".
      Lisa: I'll call poison control. Hi, Fran, it's me. Just a heads-up.
  • Spongebob Squarepants: Inverted in "Dying For Pie", where Spongebob is thought to have unknowingly eaten a deadly pie, which will end his life at sunset. Squidward, responsible for bringing a pie-shaped bomb to Spongebob, feels guilty enough to spend the rest of the day doing anything Spongebob wants. It's eventually revealed that Spongebob never ate the bomb-pie, but rather a different pie. He saved the bomb, which he promptly trips and thus throws into Squidward's face, producing a nuclear blast.
    • A more straightforward example is when Mr. Krabs sells spoiled Krabby Patties that have turned yellow and spongy as an attempt to cash in on SpongeBob's popularity.
    • Then there's "The Nasty Patty", in which Krabs and SpongeBob make the titular patty for what the think is a fake health inspector. Hilarity Ensues when they think the patty killed him.
    • A milder example is "Pretty Patties", in which SpongeBob sells colored patties. The people who eat them don't get sick exactly, but they do turn the same color (or pattern) as the patties they ate.


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