Pepsi Continues Denying Using Fetal Cells in Flavor Testing

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Mar 29, 2012   |   11:47AM   |   Washington, DC

PepsiCo has come under heavy criticism from pro-life advocates for months for contracting with biotech firm Senomyx Inc., which uses cells from a baby killed in an abortion to conduct flavor testing.

The second largest beverage company in the world contracted with the firm in a $30 million deal in August 2010 and once Debi Vinnedge of the pro-life group Children of God for Life uncovered the connection, numerous pro-life groups, including LifeNews, have joined together to promote a boycott of Pepsi until it ends the Senomyx contract.

Now, in new comments to the Washington Times, PepsiCo officials continue to deny the complaints from pro-lifers.

Jeff Dahncke, PepsiCo senior director for communications, thanked The Washington Times in an email for “giving us the opportunity to clarify misperceptions and erroneous media reports on the topic.”

“PepsiCo does not conduct or fund research, including research performed by third parties, that utilizes any human tissue or cell lines derived from embryos or fetuses. We clearly communicate this in our Responsible Research Statement on our website,” Dahncke told the newspaper. “Any research funded by PepsiCo and conducted by Senomyx for PepsiCo must abide by this responsible research statement.”

Those comments come after Dahncke said in emails LifeNews obtained that the disputed flavor testing was not used to create Pepsi Next, a low calorie beverage the company has been aggressively advertising.

Vinnedge called the PepsiCo denial “pure deception” in comments to the Times.

She said she found HEK-293, a “human embryo kidney” cell line produced from an aborted fetus in the 1970s, in more than 70 Senomyx patents, all related to flavor enhancers.

“What Pepsi is doing is saying that they’re not taking the cells directly from a fetus. Well, that’s true, they’re taking them from a lab,” Ms. Vinnedge said. “They’re doing this with semantics to get around what they’re really doing.”

Vinnedge also said pro-life groups are not targeting other companies as they are focusing on Pepsi, and explained why.

“We really aren’t going after [Nestle and Kraft] like we are with Pepsi because Pepsi is still in the development stages,” Ms. Vinnedge said. “They can change it. They can say, ‘Let’s use a morally responsible cell line.’”

“Pepsi is in panic mode it seems,” she told LifeNews previously. “They have been contacting media outlets telling them that they are not funding any research using cells or tissues from embryos or aborted fetuses, however this is pure deception on their part.”

“The HEK-293 was indeed produced from the kidneys of an aborted fetus in the 1970s.  From that tissue, they will produce what is known as a “cell line” by culturing the cells in a petri dish in the lab,” she explained. “Those cells are then subsequently frozen, patented and then made available for researchers through organizations such as the NIH, American Type Cell Culture, Coriell Labs, etc who sell these cell lines to researchers.  So when Pepsi says they are not taking the cells from a fetus or embryo, what they really mean is they are taking them from the lab.”

“Were it not true that Pepsi is funding this research to the tune of $30 million paid up front plus royalties to Senomyx in the future, you can be assured they would have asked for a swift dismissal of the shareholder resolution filed with the SEC in a quick paragraph,” Vinnedge continued. “Instead, they wrote a 36 page response detailing previous exclusions by the SEC on other companies that also use aborted fetal or embryonic material such as Pfizer, GE and Merck.”

Vinnedge says the PepsiCo response saying that no cells from aborted babies are in any of its products is coming in response to people who never asked about whether such cells were in the products in the first place.

The responses from Pepsi come on the heels of the Obama administration facing criticism because an agency has declared that Pepsi’s use of the company and its controversial flavor testing process constitutes “ordinary business.”

In a decision delivered February 28, the Security and Exchange Commission ruled that PepsiCo’s use of aborted fetal remains in their research and development agreement with Senomyx to produce  flavor enhancers falls under “ordinary business operations.”

ACTION: Contact Pepsico:

Jamie Caulfield, Sr. VP
PepsiCo, Inc.
700 Anderson Hill Road
Purchase, NY 10577
(914) 253-2000
Email form: