Food companies using aborted babies

Fact Check-PepsiCo drinks do not contain ‘aborted fetal cells’

By Reuters Fact Check

5 Min Read

Beverages produced by PepsiCo do not contain aborted fetal cells.

This false claim spread online via an image that listed brands allegedly connected with PepsiCo under the headline: “Foods that contain aborted fetal cells” (here , here , here , here).

The post presents no evidence and plays into misinformation on these products that has been in circulation for years. The original author of the post later apologised for “some inaccurate information” but did not delete it (here).

The claim originates from 2010 when the food and drink company PepsiCo (here) signed a four-year deal with Senomyx (here), a biotechnology company that develops sweeteners (here).

A year later, a US-based anti-abortion group called ‘Children of God for Life’ called for a boycott on companies partnered with Senomyx, which they alleged was using “aborted fetal cell lines to test their products”. They claimed Senomyx was using human embryonic kidney (HEK) cells “taken from an electively aborted baby” to produce human taste receptors. The cells were called HEK-293 (here).

Google Patents shows that Senomyx had a patent issued in 2008 for “Recombinant Methods for Expressing a Functional Sweet Taste Receptor” that mentioned HEK-293 cells (here , here).

A 2014 article in the scientific journal Nature said the HEK-293 cell line originates from the kidney of an aborted human embryo from 1973. The cells were cloned and are widely used in biomedical research (here).

The patent therefore suggests that Senomyx used cloned cells derived from an aborted embryo, a developing baby at the early stages (here , page 18).

PepsiCo has denied any involvement with HEK-293 cells.

In a 2012 letter, a PepsiCo vice president responded to the boycott by Children of God for Life and told consumers that PepsiCo did not conduct or fund research that utilised cell lines derived from embryos or fetuses, and that Senomyx did not use HEK cells for research on behalf of PepsiCo (here).

PepsiCo confirmed to Reuters that this was still the case.

“At one time PepsiCo did have a relationship with Senomyx exploring the development of new sweeteners and flavor enhancers,” a PepsiCo spokesperson said, but “PepsiCo’s commercial relationship with Senomyx has ended and we do not use any Senomyx ingredients in our products.”

The spokesperson added: “As always, PepsiCo absolutely does not conduct or fund research that utilizes any human tissue or cell lines derived from embryos or fetuses.”

Reuters Fact Check previously debunked claims that COVID-19 vaccines contain “aborted fetal tissue” here and here .

False. PepsiCo told Reuters that the company does not use any Senomyx ingredients in its products and does not fund or conduct research using cells derived from human embryos or fetuses.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our fact-checking work here .

No, food companies are not selling products that contain ‘aborted fetus cells’

A post shared on Facebook makes a disturbing claim that many popular food and drink companies use "aborted baby fetus cells" to enhance the flavor of their products.  

The post features text around a collage of popular food and drink items such as Pepsi, Doritos, Lays, Fritos, Aunt Jemima and Gatorade. It says:

"If only sheeple knew .. that there’s a flavor enhancement company called senomyx that puts aborted baby fetus cells in their food and drinks."

The post also has a lengthy caption that appears to be taken entirely from a 2015 blog post by Rich Swier, in which Swier includes this excerpt from a Conservative Post story: 

"Kraft, PepsiCo, Nestle, work with Semonyx, a California-based [company] that uses aborted embryonic cells to test fake flavoring chemicals. The aborted human fetal cell line is known as ‘HEK-293,’ and it is used to see how the human palate will react to synthetic flavors. Since most of today’s processed food lacks flavor, companies like Semonyx are hired to develop flavors on their own..."

Swier, according to the blog, holds a doctorate of education from the University of Southern California.

The post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

Let’s just start off by saying that no —neither Kraft nor Pepsi nor any other U.S. food company is selling items to the public that contain "aborted baby fetus cells."

The Conservative Post story that Swier’s blog and the Facebook post reference no longer exists on the website, but we traced the controversial claim back to a 2011 dispute involving Senomyx, a San Diego-based biotechnology company, and a pro-life group called Children of God for Life. 

According to an archived version of a March 29, 2011, press release from Children of God for Life, the group called for a boycott of food companies that contract with Senomyx. The organization pointed to an April 2002 report by Senomyx researchers as proof that the company was adding HEK 293 — Human Embryonic Kidney 293 cells — in its research and development to enhance flavor.

HEK 293 is a line of cells originally derived from human embryo kidney cells and that were grown in a tissue culture. The first source of the cells was a fetus that was legally aborted in the Netherlands in the 1970s. The cell line has been widely used in biological and medical inquiry, especially for cancer research.

Fetal stem cell research has been used in cell biology for over 30 years. But no company is manufacturing food or other products intended for human consumption that contain aborted human fetuses. 

Senomyx has used the HEK 293 cell line in its flavor research to function as the mouth’s taste receptor cells, allowing the company to test hundreds of substances. But these cells are not in any of the actual food products that consumers would find on the market. CBS News wrote about this in 2011: 

"To non-scientists this may sound a bit strange, but the reality is that HEK 293 cells are widely used in pharmaceutical research, helping scientists create vaccines as well as drugs like those for rheumatoid arthritis. The difference here is that Senomyx's work for Pepsi is one of the first times the cells have (potentially) been used to create a food or beverage. (And it's important to note that no part of a human kidney cell are ever a part of Senomyx's taste enhancers or any finished food products.)"

Gwen Rosenberg, vice president of investor relations and corporate communications for Senomyx, described the process to the Miami New Times during the 2011 controversy and said the process is "basically a robotic tasting system":

"(Rosenberg) depicted rows of little plastic square dishes with hundreds of tiny indentations in each dish. A protein is placed in each indentation, then a flavor. If the protein reacts to the flavor, the results are charted. If the new flavor (of which the company has more than 800,000) is successful with the protein test, the company then conducts taste tests with (live) adult humans."

Science and medicine writer Matthew Herper also broke down the process in a 2012 Forbes article:

"This is 35-year-old technology. And it is widely used in cell biology. And there is no way you'll consume them or that the cells would cause any health problems.

"... The kidney cells were forced to take up bits of DNA using a technique invented in 1973 that used a calcium solution. The resulting cells don't act much like human cells at all, but they are very easy to work with and have become workhorses of cellular biology. That's why they're used in the development of drugs and vaccines. (Here's the original paper on the creation of the HEK cells.) No new fetal tissue has been used to keep the cell culture going; the use of this cell line isn't leading to new abortion."

Our ruling

A Facebook post claims several popular food companies add "aborted baby fetus cells in their food and drinks" for flavor enhancement.

The post mischaracterizes the use fetal stem cell research by biotechnology companies such as Senomyx. HEK 293 cells, a cell line from an aborted fetus from the 1970s, has been widely used in cell biology research for over 30 years in multiple areas, including food and pharmaceutical development. But none of these cells are found in the food products available to consumers.

So, while there is a back-story associated with this post, the claim itself is too inaccurate to rate it anything but False.

Food for the scalper. What cannot be eaten. NESTLE USES ABORTIVE MATERIAL

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Nestle is actively cooperating with Senomyx.

Senomyx is an American biotechnology company working to develop food additives that enhance the taste and smell of food. The company's goal is to produce substances that would make food "tastier". Senomics has patented a certain smell using its own sensing system. These receptors were previously obtained in HEK29 cell culture.3.

What is HEK293? Most people will ask.

HEK 293 (Eng. Human Embryonic Kidney 293) is a cell line derived from human embryonic kidneys. (Inf. from Wikipedia).

So we see that the company "Senomyx" is a seller of abortive material. And Nestle and Pepsi CO cooperate with this company. Food Giants. If you don't believe me, here's a link from the official website of "Senomyx".

Information is publicly available. They don't even hide it.

products that are produced by Nestle:

-Gerber Products Company




-Nescafé Dolce

-Nesquik 9000 . ,

- Swiss Firmenich SA,

- American Solae (DuPont's food division for the production of GMO soy products),

- American Kraft Foods,

- US-British Cadbury Schweppes,


These products are very popular in the market. When buying this product, we eat a bucket that uses not only a huge amount of chemicals, but also abortive material. A smart, sane person in life will not buy this.

Let's spread this record as much as possible so that everyone knows what these products are. ..


Orthodox activists against cannibalism!

The Orthodox public movement "God's Will" picketed the Moscow office of Nestlé. Nestlé is partnering with Senomyx, which develops flavor enhancers derived from aborted babies (HEK-293, a cell line derived from human embryonic kidneys) during the manufacturing process for its product partners. In total, Senomyx has developed over 800,000 flavors. Senomyx was organized at 1999 in California by Lubert Straer, owns 113 flavoring patents, most of which were based on materials from aborted babies. Products containing HEK-293: • All coffee creamers • Maggi brand instant soups, bouillon cubes, ketchups, sauces, condiments, instant noodles. Until recently, PepsiCo was the partner of the company experimenting with human flesh. PepsiCo has stopped using cells from aborted fetuses to improve the taste of drinks. Thanks to them that they still stopped forcing people to cannibalism. Most consumers are unaware that when they buy and consume Nestlé products, they are ingesting a supplement made from embryos. At the same time, more than 500,000 corpses of Russian children are exported from Russia to the West every year.

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Embryonic cells are everywhere: what's wrong with modern cell technology

The issue of the ethics of vaccines and the use of cells from previously aborted children in their development has stirred up with renewed vigor. Around the world, Christians and members of the pro-life communities are debating whether it is right to be vaccinated with such drugs during a pandemic.

We decided to look into the situation in detail, and at the same time find out what prevents scientists from completely abandoning embryonic cell lines in medicine.

"Grow at a colossal rate": what are cell cultures and cell lines Cultivation of cells in containers. Photo from

In connection with the development of vaccines, the terms “cell culture” and “cell line” are used.

A “cell culture” is cells from a single tissue (such as skin or kidney tissue) from a human or animal that is grown in laboratories under controlled conditions. A “cell line” is a source of cell culture. As a rule, the line has a name in the form of an abbreviation of letters of the Latin alphabet and numbers - they can be used to determine when and where the cells were taken from.

There are dozens of lines (human and animal), they have certain international designations and are stored in special cell banks. There is such a bank in Russia - it is the so-called All-Union Collection of Cell Cultures, the samples of which are dispersed among various scientific institutes.

There are far fewer cell lines obtained as a result of abortions, or so-called embryonic lines, in the world.

Mostly known HEK-293 (obtained from the kidneys of an embryo aborted at 1972), PER.C6 (obtained in 1985 from cells of the retina of an 18-week-old embryo), WI-38 (obtained in 1964 from diploid cells of the lung connective tissue of an aborted girl, who was about 12 weeks old), MRC-5 (obtained in 1966 from the lung cells of a 14-week-old boy), RA27/3 (obtained in the USA in 1964 from a fetus infected with rubella) and several others.

At the same time, each of these lines has its own "specialization" and its own unique properties. So, the rubella vaccine, HEK-29, is still being grown on the RA27 / 3 line. 3 is notorious for being used by Senomyx to test nutritional supplements.

The PER.C6 line is owned by Johnson & Johnson and its exceptional property is that the cells of the line grow at an enormous rate: up to one hundred million cells can be contained in one milliliter of suspension. There are also “universal” lines, for example, about 10 vaccines against various diseases are being developed at MRC-5.

Fetal lines in the food industry: how is it?

The use of embryonic cell lines in the food industry has a history. Senomyx was founded in 1999 by Libert Strier, an American biochemist at Stanford University. Her goal was to research in the field of food additives that enhance the taste and smell of food.
The unique substances that the chemists at Senomyx were developing could not only make the original product sweeter or saltier, but also, for example, block bitterness. Tested nutritional supplements on the HEK29 embryonic cell line3 - It was cheaper than giving samples to volunteers or doing elaborate experiments on animals that couldn't communicate how they felt.
Special cell lines cultured from oral cavity receptor cells could serve as an alternative to abortive materials, but this technology was more complicated, and in the end it was decided to follow a simple and, most importantly, cheap path. At the same time, HEK293 cells were used only at the testing stage; they did not get into the final product. In total, Senomyx has 113 patents, several hundred different flavors, as well as cooperation with at least seven of the world's largest companies, such as Heinz, Nestle, Pepsi and others.
In 2010, thanks to the American pro-life organization God's Children, information that the flavorings that are used in ketchups, chips, instant cubes and soups, cream, chocolate, carbonated drinks, are produced using unethical technology became widespread. known. A complete list of products can be found here.
As a result, most of the partners of Senomyx have disowned cooperation with the company, announcing that they are updating their products. The Senomyx website has not been updated since 2012. How things are today with the testing of flavoring additives in the US and in the world is not known for certain.

Cells grow in bioreactors with a volume of several thousand liters Cultivation of cells in a bioreactor. Photo from

In medicine and pharmacology, embryonic cell lines are currently used to create vaccines (vector or live) against measles, rubella, mumps, hepatitis A, rabies, chickenpox, coronavirus. Human cell lines are needed to propagate the virus, which is then used in the vaccine. After all, viruses, unlike bacteria, need a "host", and the cells of the cell line become this "host".

They are also used to develop drugs for rheumatoid arthritis, hemophilia and cystic fibrosis. In addition, the HEK-293 line is being used in research into cancer therapies. An adeno-associated virus is also grown on it, which serves as a vector for gene delivery in the Zolgensma drug, which is used in the treatment of spinal muscular atrophy.

Embryonic cells can indeed divide almost indefinitely under the conditions created for this in laboratories. Supporters of this method, as an argument justifying the use of abortive material, say that the cell cultures that are used today are the result of a long division and are no longer actually part of the body of the once aborted child.

Obtaining a cell line is as follows. The tissue or organ from whose cells a cell line is to be developed in the future is taken under aseptic conditions, placed in a sterile saline solution and transported to a specialized laboratory.

Tissues and organs are carefully examined in the laboratory, including for possible infection. If it is established that they are “clean”, they are crushed with a scalpel or scissors to pieces no larger than 1-3 mm in size, thoroughly washed from blood cells in several changes of sterile solutions, and then placed in solutions of special enzymes that allow isolating individual cells.

Actually, these very cells that can be isolated by grinding (sometimes this may even require a kind of “sieve” through which the solution obtained from tissues or organs is filtered) is the primary cell culture. It can be started to "grow" with the help of a nutrient medium and a number of special technologies.

Most cell cultures grow in what is called a monolayer, that is, at the bottom of a plastic or glass container, in a one-cell-thick layer. In order for them to multiply faster and more efficiently, special multi-storey containers were invented. (This is how it looks like for example.)

Some types of cells require constant agitation - "shakers" have been invented for them, which shake the vessels with the cells. For example, in Italy, 28 thousand special roller bottles are used simultaneously to create vaccines in the factory. Automation at the same time controls the temperature and speed of rotation. And when the factory replaced smooth glass vials with corrugated plastic vials, increasing the surface area, they received a twenty-fold increase in cells, and doubling the cell population occurs in just over 8 hours.

But the technology that works best is when the cells multiply in suspension in a special bioreactor. Such reactors with a capacity of up to 8,000 liters operate in Europe and the United States.

In this case, the actual cells of the embryonic line should not get into the final product (grafting).

When the virus multiplies in sufficient quantity, it is separated from the cell culture by various means and purified from impurities. To do this, different methods can be used - electrophoresis, various chemicals, staining, and even multi-level filtration. The resulting pure virus or its fragments are added to the vaccine along with other substances that will ensure its preservation, stability and, in the future, the necessary effect on the body.

If not used for production, then used for testing Roller bioreactor for cultivation of cell cultures: A - scheme, B - roller culture system. Image from

Some vaccines, however, use animal cells such as monkeys, rabbits, hamsters, and chicken embryos in eggs. But still, virologists believe that human cell cultures are the most advanced of the laboratory systems for cultivating viruses, and then testing their effectiveness. The use of human cells, in contrast to the material taken from animals, gives greater safety of vaccination, as it guarantees that the immune system does not react to the material of another biological species. The technology is cheap, which is why it is used almost everywhere.

In the case of the latest coronavirus vaccines, it is already known that embryonic cell lines were used in the development of at least Pfizer and Moderna RNA vaccines at the stage of laboratory testing. The connection with the cell lines that appeared as a result of abortions is in the Russian vaccine "Sputnik-V" of the Institute. Gamaleya and preparations of the companies NOVAVAXAB and INOVIO, which are in the stage of clinical trials. Such data was published at the end of 2020 by the American Charlotte Losier Institute, an organization that takes a pro-life position, collects and publishes information regarding abortion and the use of abortive material for medical, scientific and other purposes.

AstraZeneca's coronavirus vaccine uses a chimpanzee adenovirus rather than a human adenovirus as a vector. However, according to data published in the journal Nature, the HEK293 cell line was used in the development of the vaccine.

Curiously, a vaccinologist from the University of Auckland, chair of the WHO Global Advisory Committee on Vaccine Safety Helen Petousis-Harris lines, if not for production, then at least for testing.

“When studying viruses and immune responses in the laboratory, these cell lines are inevitably used to provide reliable results relevant to humans,” says Petousis-Harris.

Since only Sputnik-V from this list is currently available in Russia, it is worth telling a little more about it. This is a vector vaccine created on a previously developed and tested one at the N.N. Gamaleya adenovirus platform. This means that the vaccine is based on a vector, , a genetically modified virus, into which the genes for the proteins of the outer shell of the SARS-CoV-2 virus are inserted. The vector delivers a fragment of the coronavirus genome into the cell, triggering an immune response.

The Russian vaccine uses adenoviruses as a vector. It is adenoviruses that need to be grown on the HEK293 embryonic cell line, so the Sputnik-V vaccine from this point of view can be considered a drug with an ethically controversial component.

The vaccine of the Russian company "Vector", "EpiVakKorona", consists of artificially synthesized short fragments of viral proteins - peptides recognized by the immune system. It does not seem to involve working with cell lines, at least not for production. (The patent has not yet been published, so there is no exact data.) Regarding the third Russian vaccine, which is still being worked on at the Center. Chumakov, no data yet.

Unethical cell lines can be replaced, but few people are interested in this Amniocentesis procedure. Photo from the site

Supporters of the use of embryonic cell lines in medicine and pharmacology assure that the cell lines obtained decades ago are enough to meet the needs of the entire industry, and situations in which new abortions would be needed in research or, moreover, for commercial purposes, are impossible.

Donald Trump tried to limit the use of new abortion materials

Proponents of the use of embryonic cell lines often argue that the studies that take place with these cells do not require new abortions. However, abortive material continues to be used in one way or another for scientific purposes. It is known that such works are being carried out in Great Britain, India, China, and Singapore. In Russia, the leader in this kind of activity is Professor Gennady Sukhikh, who heads the Federal State Budgetary Institution “N. IN AND. Kulakov” and is considered the author of the so-called “fetal therapy”, during which abortive tissues are used.

In 2019, US President Donald Trump made an attempt to limit the use of tissue obtained from planned abortions for scientific purposes. At that time, his administration effectively blocked scientists from the National Institutes of Health from obtaining any fetal tissue for further research. Funding for this kind of research has also been substantially reduced.
In addition, a so-called Human Fetal Tissue Research Ethics Advisory Board has emerged in the United States, which over the past two years has only granted approval for research that seeks alternative methods to move away from abortive waste entirely in the future.

On the eve of Joe Biden's inauguration, he was approached by representatives of the American scientific community with a request to lift the moratorium established by his predecessor. In their letter, scientists refer, among other things, to the fact that this will allegedly speed up research to find a cure for covid.

Deb Wombold, a Merck spokesperson , gave a partial answer to the question of why the world's pharmaceutical industry is not switching to ethical vaccines without the use of embryonic cells. She explained that in the case of the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine, switching from the WI-38 line to another cell line (eg animal) is a major challenge, both in terms of efficacy and quality of the vaccine.

“Because the process of vaccine development is so dependent on the particular cell line in which it occurs, it is not possible to simply replace one line with another. And even if it succeeded, there is no guarantee that the level of safety and effectiveness would be comparable to already licensed vaccines,” says Ms. Wombold.

Attempts to find an alternative are still rather in the theoretical field.

Tak, Ph.D. embryonic cells obtained as a result of a miscarriage.

David Prentice , vice president of the Charlotte Losier Institute, suggests creating cell lines based on cells obtained from amniocentesis, a procedure for collecting amniotic fluid from a pregnant woman.

But here again the main argument comes into play: existing embryonic cell lines are cheap, while new technologies will take time to develop, study and implement. Not everyone is ready for this.

Ethical technologies need to be developed Photo: invest.

The question of the ethics of vaccines and their connection with abortive materials has been raised more than once by representatives of different faiths.

In December 2020, the Vatican stated that “in the absence of an alternative, the use of vaccines produced using cell lines from aborted embryos is morally permissible, and it should be borne in mind that the refusal to vaccinate due to the rejection of such vaccines “may increase risks for public health".

The official position of the Russian Orthodox Church on the use of coronavirus vaccines, which are somehow related to embryonic cell lines, is not yet available. It is known that the relevant requests were sent to all developers of Russian vaccines, and representatives of the Institute. The Gamaleyas confirmed they were using the HEK29 cell line3 for the cultivation of adenovirus, but at the same time they emphasized that there are no abortive cells in the final product, and the creators of EpiVacCorona hastened to assure that their vaccine is as ethical as possible.

At the present time the Church, in resolving this issue, refers to two documents. First of all, it is "Fundamentals of the Social Concept", which says: "Condemning abortion as a mortal sin, the Church cannot find justification for it even if someone may receive health benefits from the destruction of a conceived human life."

On the other hand, in 2009, when a similar controversy arose over measles vaccination, the Russian Society of Orthodox Doctors issued a statement acknowledging the temporary use of vaccines that use abortifacient material in their development, but stating the following: “At the same time, we consider it necessary to speak strongly in favor of the use of alternative (ethical) vaccines, when available. It is also necessary to press the Government of Russia, the Ministry of Health and Social Development, as well as the pharmaceutical industry to create domestic alternative (ethical) vaccines or purchase them in countries that produce them.”

Plant-based ethical vaccines of the future? Photo: mali maeder/Pexels

From the above, we can conclude that the key point in the problem of using abortive materials in the creation of vaccines is precisely the request for ethical products. It seems that until it is sufficiently formulated and voiced by various organizations, groups and individual opinion leaders, things will not get off the ground.

And yet, there is hope, such works are gradually appearing. An example of this is the so-called "vegetable" vaccine, which scientists from the Biological Faculty of Moscow State University are working on.

It uses tobacco mosaic virus as an adjuvant - a substance that facilitates the delivery and correct expression of certain antigens during vaccination. Tobacco is infected with a virus, then it is isolated from plants, subjected to heat treatment, and it becomes spherical from a rod. Added to this spherical particle are fragments of the COVID-19 pathogen protein, which, due to the properties of the plant virus, attach perfectly to it, so that no additional chemical agents need to be used for this.

Professor Aleksey Agranovsky, Head of the Virology Department of the Biological Faculty of Moscow State University, assured Miloserdiye. ru that embryonic cell lines, as well as animal cells, are not used at the stage of vaccine design. In the future, at the testing stage, there will be experiments on laboratory animals, but in general it can be said that this vaccine will become ethically acceptable.

By the way, MSU has already developed a vaccine against rubella using a similar technology, and it proved to be safe in animal tests. There are a number of other vaccine candidates that are being worked on.

“These studies are of fundamental importance for theoretical science, because the more we know, the more armed we are. You never know what epidemics will be in the future - you need to be able to use different platforms, ”says the scientist.

“Having another vaccine, even when there are already several options, is good,” explains Alexey Agranovsky. “And not just because people should have a choice. For example, Sputnik-V can be vaccinated once, and if there is a need for revaccination, there is a risk that it will be ineffective.

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