10 Poison-Free Alternatives To Foods and Drinks With Poison In Them

People have been known to kill other people, which is not a good way to resolve conflicts, fix problems, or be a human. This is why it is important to note that many meals that have been used to kill people do not, in fact, have to kill people. Even if nobody volunteered to write a food list this week and I ended up having to write one from the depths of my depressed morbid soul, that is NO EXCUSE for murder.

1. Tea and Gruel

In the mid-18th century, Mary Blandy’s lover Captain William Henry Cranstoun sent her “love potion” in the mail which he claimed would cause her father to change his mind about Mary’s intention to marry him. She put the powder in her father’s gruel and tea, but it turned out to be straight-up poison and he died. However, you can also make gruel and tea without poison. You will still be eating gruel, though, so there’s that.

2. Kool-Aid

We’ve all heard the saying “don’t drink the Kool-Aid” but I have good news for you: Kool-Aid does not inherently contain poison, that’s just how Jim Jones prepared it with the intention of orchestrating a mass suicide for his cult. Although Jones added cyanide, diazepam, promethazine, and chloral hydrate to his Kool-Aid, Kool-Aid actually tastes a LOT better without any of that stuff in it.

3. Chocolate Mousse

In the problematically horrifying film Rosemary’s Baby, Rosemary’s neighbors slip a sedative into her chocolate mousse, which gives the dish a chalky taste. That’s one of many reasons why it’s better to make your chocolate mousse without sedatives.

4. Shortcake

In 1868, Priscilla Biggadike and her husband, a successful well sinker, were fighting all the damn time about Priscilla possibly sleeping with one of the boarders who shared their two-bedroom cottage in Lincolnshire. So, that September, Priscilla took matters into her own hands and served her husband an arsenic-laced short cake. She later enjoyed the honor of being the first woman in Britain to be hanged in public. You can avoid a similar fate by making your short cakes without arsenic.

5. Hot Chocolate

Lydia Sherman was an 1870s serial killer, responsible for the deaths of at least eight men and children. In May of 1871, after murdering her boyfriend’s children, she treated him to a mug of hot chocolate which contained poison. I’d recommend adding peppermint flavoring or marshmallows instead of poison if you try this at home.

6. Beer

Home-brewing yourself a nice beer is a longstanding lesbian tradition, I think. I wouldn’t know personally because I don’t like beer. But you know what would make me like beer even less than I already do? If my beer had rat poison in it, like the beer prepared by 37-year-old Rebecca Worlock for her husband in August of 1820. (It killed him.) If you’re gonna drink beer, drink responsibly: drink beer without poison in it.

7. Blood-Red Apple

According to the Disney wiki, the Poisoned Apple given to Snow White is a “blood-red apple which, when bitten, will send its victim into the Sleeping Death.” To be honest that’s not entirely unappealing right now, but the good news about apples is that you don’t need to add anything to an apple for it to be ready-to-eat. Just enjoy your apple as-is and you will not fall into the Sleeping Death.

8. Mead

Ronald Weasely managed to survive when the mead intended for Dumbledore from Horace Slughorn turned out to be poisoned. He was saved by Harry Potter. If you’re not personally close with Harry Potter – and who is these days, honestly —avoid poisoned mead.

9. Corned Beef Sandwich

In the Spring of 1934, Ethel Lillie Major’s first attempt to poison her husband via sandwich was foiled when he took one bite and immediately spit it out, declaring “I’m damned sure that woman is trying to poison me.” He was sitting outside near some birds and so the birds ate his discarded sandwich and then all the birds died. But there were more sandwiches in his future, including one that finally did kill him. So, if you have birds near your lunch spot, it’s probably a good idea to leave strychnine out of your sandwich.

10. Hard Candy

If you’re anything like me, you saw that episode of Criminal Minds where everybody died from consuming hard candy from a bowl at the bank and now you never eat candy from a bowl at the bank anymore. I wouldn’t necessarily say that I was a big FAN of candy from a bowl at the bank, but I probably considered having some every now and then. But if you make your own candy at home, you can be sure that you will survive to tell the tale.

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Riese is the 41-year-old Co-Founder of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, video-maker, LGBTQ+ Marketing consultant and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and now lives in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared in nine books, magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. She's Jewish and has a cute dog named Carol. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 3228 articles for us.


  1. This article is a joy.

    But also, don’t be tempted by the apple Riese. We need you.

    Also, the hot chocolate picture! I want to know how they made the tree like that so I kept trying to look, but then all the tiny bubbles kept making me scratch my eyes.

  2. I’m here to report that miso soup made with grits (b/c i’m out of noodles) is an excellent comfort food. Esp made w/o poison.

      • Grits are type of porridge comprised of a coarsely ground meal made of corn.
        And yes it’s an American thing that has it’s roots in cusine of the First Nations.
        It is a bit of regional thing in the southeastern parts of the US due to historical farming patterns and climate.
        That regional popularity started back when (european)people with farm land owed the Crown a certain amount of a inedible cash crop (like indigo or tobacco) but still needed to feed themselves and corn was a low maintenance crop with a pretty bitching yield even if they used like tiny, tiny tract of field to plant it in.

        They could eat corn, the pigs could eat it, they could grind it and use it a whole bunch of ways. Grits of course. Cornbread, corn cakes, in coatings for frying so they wouldn’t have to use too much flour which was not cheap or plentiful.

        After owing the Crown was no longer a thing at all it had proved it’s worth and handiness/become tradition in those areas.

    • I don’t know if Riese has read this or not, but let me tell you, if she hasn’t, you have made her day.

    • this ARTICLE is so good, i have sent it to multiple girls i’ve had crushes on (maybe this is why i am single?)

      • I live for a girl to one day send me links for great articles like this, so you are doing it right or we are just weirdos, one of the two! Also, loved this when I first read it.

        • I wondered about the plausibility of this article when I first read it – there’s nothing on snopes but it’s such a good urban legend!

  3. I know it’s wrong, but I never feel bad upon learning a lady of yore murdered her husband. The whole spousal property, lack of female agency, till death do you part for realzies thing is just super erosive to my sympathetic impulses.

    For the record I’m against contemporary murder.

    • no of course it’s not bad NOT BAD AT ALL and i think you owe it to yourself to read the story of Suzanne Fazekas, a Hungarian woman who sold arsenic to women who wanted to poison their husbands

      • Bless you. This will always be the day I learned about The Encyclopedia of 20th Century Murder.

        • My favorite song as a child may or may not have been Goodbye Earl. I might need to give all this some thought, come to think of it.

    • oh man, so many australian ladies poisoned their husbands after they came back from war and were horrible and abusive. that’s a good wikipedia spiral to go on…

      • My favourite would have to be the story about “Aunt Thally”. Just for the detached manner of her whole approach to her family and friends possessions if nothing else.

        • @spunutu and Diane N thank you for giving me clues that solved an old query of mine that’s just been rolling about in the back of my mind for years about why Caroline Grills was called Aunt Thally.
          Thallium poisoning, I never heard of Australia’s “Thallium Craze” before despite knowing the Kelly gang and some other weird crime stuff.

          • When my parents first migrated to Australia in the ’50’s my Mum couldn’t believe the number of women who did for their “old men”. Most of them were real bastards, just in defence of the ladies, even though many were probably also damaged by PTSD from their war experience.

            In England, at the time, it was the men murdering their wives just by way of contrast. My mother was something of an early feminist and was very supportive of these Australian women who decided that enough was enough.

    • The female lead isn’t exactly a likable character (there are none of those), and barely even a main character as I recall, but you might enjoy Doctor Glas. The protagonist falls in love with a married woman who hates her husband and plots to keep the husband’s grubby hands off her, in various ways, while she cavorts with her lover. The story covers the time from when she enters his life until he finally gets the husband out of the way. It caused something of a scandal when it was published in 1905.

      It’s a bit light on strong, active women, though, if that’s a requirement for your reading.

    • Not trying to be a Debbie Downer by sharing one of my favourite bits of forensic science history serial killer Mary Ann Cotton convicted by evidence from Marsh test for arsenic.

      She killed an estimated 21 people: husbands, boyfriends, pesky MILs, her stepchildren and her own children with arsenic all to collect on insurance policies. Now arsenic poisoning can have very similar symptoms to cholera so Mary Ann if she had stopped at hubby #3 and stepkids she MIGHT never been found out because grown people and kids died of cholera and other intestinal fun things on the regular.

      Her conviction using forensic science gave it attention and cred.

      Still I feel bit sympathetic because I like to think that if Mary had more opportunities than what were afforded a Victorian woman she might not have decided poisoning people and collecting their life insurance was a legit way to try to get by.

      Oh and another fun historical note at times certain poisons were referred to as “inheritance powders” which is term I greatly adore and wanted everybody to know. ^-^

  4. Hi I love you. I’m a little bit sorry that nobody volunteered to write a list this week, but not really because now we all have this. Thank you for not poisoning your own food.

    • For the record I am always happy to write food lists. Food and lists are two of my great loves!

  5. I love this list.

    Hint: hot chocolate with rose petals and a shot of whiskey (but no poison). Medicinal.

    • Please expand on the rose petals? Do you dry them and grind them up? Float them delicately on top? Soak them in the whiskey first? I am intrigued (if all the question marks didn’t tip you off).

  6. When I first saw this article’s title, I was terrified that it would be anti-science fear-mongering about genetically modified crops(compare an ear of corn to an ear of teosinte, humans have been warping the genomes of other organisms for thousands of years)and “artificial ingredients”(whatever that even means). Thank Cthulhu it wasn’t: it was yet another wonderful Autostraddle list with delicious recipes and fascinating historical trivia.

  7. This is delightful and hilarious and it reminds me a bit of Mallory Ortberg and I mean that as a huge compliment (of course)

  8. I’m kind of glad no one volunteered to do a food list this week, because this is the best one yet

  9. This is truly filling the Toast-shaped void in my life and also making me hungry for chocolate mousse, which are the two things I ask out of every article I read on the internet. (So few deliver).

  10. I would add that Turkish Delight is delicious when not covered in arsenic or whatever magic the White Queen uses

    • TBH, I think Turkish Delight is pretty gross with or without magical poison, but ymmv.

      (Just saying, I would have held out for better candy before I sold out my siblings).

      • In that case, “Enchanted Candy I Would Sell Out My Siblings For” is obviously a list we need to make.

        • I’ve been thinking about this (too much probably). 11 yo me would have cheerfully sold out my younger brother for Easter or Christmas chocolate with really pretty foil wrapped around it (a few years ago I found a box full of colored foils I’d collected from misc holiday chocolates).

          Current me would not sell out my wonderful brother for any candy, not even gluten free, fair trade dark chocolate.

  11. via GIPHY

    I love that you managed to find the most beautiful pictures of food to go along with the morbid descriptions. I hope you keep channeling your pain into awesomeness and away from poisons.

  12. Ok but where is the pro-poison counter-post? You should really give both sides equal weight, otherwise you’re just propagating the media’s usual unfair liferal bias.

  13. Also Ethel Lillie Major’s husband, who apparently so enjoyed ordering his wife to bring him a sandwich that he continued to eat them even after actual bird-death proof that she had tried to poison him.

    This post has truly made my night.

  14. i have never been more delighted in my life than when i realized each recipe was going to have a poison story to go along with it

    also not gonna lie, if we could avoid the chalkiness, maybe chocolate mousse with just like, a little bit of sedative action might sound okay right now…as long as there was no accompanying murder. not lookin’ to get dead, just, ya know, in the immortal words of the ramones, “i wanna be sedated.”

      • oh is THAT what happens? i don’t believe in watching scary movies so i didn’t actually have any idea. in that case, i’d like to clarify that i neither want to get murdered nor impregnated, whether by satan or anyone else.

        maybe we do a remake as tina’s baby and the movie can basically just be the l word if bette and tina were always under the influence of mild sedatives. i feel like maybe things would have worked out better?

        (i got to thinking about the word impregnated and about lesbians, and, joy of joys, that brought bette and tina to mind. so. i have no excuses really, but that is where that came from.)

  15. this is *SO GLORIOUS* #champagneriese

    Thank-you so much, and may you be showered with poison free alternatives to food and drink with poison in them (because murder is bad).

  16. This is amazing. Thank you for introducing me to so many epic poison stories – and hoping the sandwich I’m currently eating has not been poisoned. I never heard of poison sandwiches…. learn something new every day :)

  17. Now this is a New Year resolution that I can actually keep – no poison in 2017.

    And that is an impressive list of poisoners.

  18. Riese this list is win, but holy shit that hot chocolate link is relevant to my life right now as I cannot do instant hot chocolate nor from melting down solid chocolate pieces in almond milk because stupid commonly used additives my adult body has decided to reject.
    I just love the international history of sweets and spices.

    Plus this hot chocolate pot had me in stiches

    It looks like a cross between a tea pot and an amphora xD

  19. I have a little suggestion, with just a few words: Mercedes Bernardina Bolla Aponte de Murano, AKA Yiya Murano + home-made Petit Fours (add 3 friends, some money swindle and a little cyanide).

  20. I keep thinking about this article and every time it makes me smile. Thank you, Riese, and take care.

  21. This is a super weird article but I mean that in the best way! Absolutely love it and really want chocolate mousse now…

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