A friend just came over and apparently Pepsi is made from people.

Or, more specifically:

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.

“What they don’t tell the public is that they are using HEK 293 — human embryonic kidney cells taken from an electively aborted baby to produce those receptors,” said Debi Vinnedge of the pro-life group Children of God for Life. “They could have easily chosen animal, insect, or other morally obtained human cells expressing the G protein for taste receptors.”

(though it looks like that post says that they use these cells to develop flavors, not as actual additives).

The claim I heard was that Pepsi contains cells from humans - is this true?

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    "The claim I heard was that Pepsi contains cells from humans" - but as you point out, that's not what the quote you supplied says. Can you show that the claim you heard is a notable claim, by quoting someone that actually says Pepsi contains cells from humans?
    – ff524
    Nov 14, 2016 at 23:42
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    "Pepsi contains cells from humans" is a common claim as reported by Snopes snopes.com/politics/medical/pepsi.asp
    – Avery
    Nov 14, 2016 at 23:43
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    @Avery It doesn't say "contains" human cells on that Snopes link, it says "manufactured using" human cells.
    – ff524
    Nov 14, 2016 at 23:57
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    I'd guess there are almost certainly some human cells in Pepsi, e.g. skin cells from the people who make the cans or service the production equipment. Sanitizing the equipment, wearing gloves and gowns, etc, would remove most of them but surely not all. And as soon as you open the can with your fingers, you'll introduce lots more. Nov 15, 2016 at 1:01
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    PEPSI IS PEOPLE!!! Nov 17, 2016 at 20:35

2 Answers 2


The claims people bring to this site never fail to impress! This is more false than it is true.

  1. Pepsi does not contain HEK-293 cells. HEK cells were used to test different kinds of sweeteners to determine their reaction. To repeat, people who drink Pepsi are not drinking anything that originally came from a human. (sources: Forbes, LifeSiteNews)
  2. HEK-293 cells were indeed originally derived from an aborted human fetus, but they have been heavily mutated by a virus and are not easily recognizable. For scientific purposes they are a tool, not a research subject or a food, making them not much different in practice than HeLa cells.

    The transformation resulted in the incorporation of approximately 4.5 kilobases from the viral genome into human chromosome 19 ... The type of kidney cell that the HEK293 cell line is unknown, and it is difficult to conclusively characterize the cells post-transformation, since adenovirus 5 could have significantly disrupted cell morphology and expression.

    (source: HEK-293.com)

On the other hand, the use of human cells in biological research is a real ethical and legal issue, as discussed in, for example, the book The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks and the court case Moore v. Regents of the University of California.

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    FWIW it reads to me that HEK-293 were not used to develop Pepsi, But were used to check that some new sweeteners were not poisonous, and those sweeteners are used in some versions of Pepsi (Diet presumably). Those sweeteners are probably also in lots of other foods as well. Nov 16, 2016 at 0:48
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    @JoeBlow Ok. I disagree.
    – Avery
    Nov 16, 2016 at 16:45
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    To perhaps make an analogy; many folks (in Europe, not China) don't want "animals to be used" in researching cosmetics. So, if one said "Oh, animals were not used in testing Y, only animals were used in some process that was then used in testing Y" ... to me that's what has happened here in this answer. Look at it this way: let's say you are opposed to the use of HEK-293. Since HEK-293 is used in researching Pepsi - well, that's it, it is used in researching Pepsi. You wouldn't, thus, support/buy/etc Pepsi, if, you are opposed to the use of HEK-293. No?
    – Fattie
    Nov 16, 2016 at 17:03
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    The actual claim being made is that Pepsi contains cells "from humans". So I explained this in detail.
    – Avery
    Nov 16, 2016 at 18:34
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    "then an uninformed person would easily recoil in terror" - but this site is entirely about black and white factual issues. We don't make any judgements on this site about whether certain persons are "uninformed" (ie, "we don't agree with their beliefs and decisions"), and the concept is not even raised. We don't care or know what anyone thinks or doesn't think about "human cells used in Pepsi research" - this site is here to answer the question are: "human cells used in Pepsi research".
    – Fattie
    Nov 17, 2016 at 15:01

Pepsi is certified kosher in the US, Mexico, and Canada (source), so there cannot be any human products involved in Pepsi made at those locations, as human flesh is not kosher. Kashrus certification involves intimate knowledge of each ingredient used in the product.

From Wikipedia:

This certification verifies that the ingredients, production process, and/or food-service process complies with the standards of kashrut (Jewish dietary law) as stipulated in the Shulchan Arukh, the benchmark of religious Jewish law.

This at least erases skepticism in the US, Mexico, and Canada. The recipe is presumably the same in different countries.

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    @yo If there was any significant chance that the certification authority overlooked it, noone for whom kosher matters would be able to rely on that entity - How did they become an "authority?" By gaining trust. Also there are routine inspections, it's hard to miss this sort of thing again and again and again.
    – Menasheh
    Nov 16, 2016 at 7:07
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    Sorry, but trust itself is not evidence. If you trust they are not lying, that's another case, but even then you shall see the methodology used. I pretty doubt they made a special test for human cells contamination of the coke. If they did the test, it would be nice to mention that in the answer with a link to the source.
    – yo'
    Nov 16, 2016 at 7:13
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    @yo' See updated answer. They certify that no non-kosher ingredients were used. If you want to be skeptical of that, I suppose that's another question in itself.
    – Menasheh
    Nov 16, 2016 at 7:26
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    For those wondering whether human flesh is kosher or not: judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/19071/…
    – Golden Cuy
    Nov 16, 2016 at 8:51
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    "The recipe is presumably the same in different countries." - That's not a safe assumption
    – Oddthinking
    Nov 16, 2016 at 14:03

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