If you like to read health news, then you might have seen this story on some of the leading woo (quack) websites.
These web sites love to snag you with these “click bait” headlines, knowing that you will simply have to stop and read the article, no matter how fake the story is, no matter how twisted they might have to turn something, they really don’t care. The truth is not important to them, only in getting your attention so that you click on their website and possibly buy some “miracle” cure while you are there.
In this story, woo websites claim that big food companies, such as Nestle, Pepsi, and Kraft, are using a company called Senomyx, which is known for using aborted embryo cells to make fake flavors, which are then added to cookies, candy, and sodas.
This story has been twisted to such an extent that it is almost unrecognizable.
Before we discuss this story, we need to make a few facts clear.
- Senomyx is a biotech company, based in the U.S.A., which develops and discovers new flavoring ingredients by using additives that amplify certain smells or flavors in food. This means that, via additives, Senomyx can give that sour candy an extremely sour taste because it knows their additive will stimulate the taste buds that react to sour foods.
- HEK293 is short for Human Embryonic Kidney 293 cells. Before you start saying “but they are right!”, let’s look at the facts. This cell line did come from the kidney cells of an aborted embryo in 1972. The cells from this embryo have been used in biotech development, pharmaceutical development, and biology research.
Now that we know what these two items are, let’s look at the story.
Whether you believe in the moral use of fetal stem cell research doesn’t really matter. The fact is that trying to say that using reproductions of cells that are more than 40 years old is the same as using aborted baby tissue is like saying that a photocopy of a photocopy of a photocopy (keep going on with that about 400,000 times) of George Washington’s original signature is the exact same thing as the original. It simply isn’t true.
This cell line appears to be used by Senomyx to work in the same way that our taste buds do. By using this method, the company can test millions of compounds to see if they work as taste enhancers or not. This bypasses the time and trouble of human taste testers.
HEK 293 cells have been widely used in pharmaceutical research. They have helped scientists create vaccines, as well as numerous drugs for those who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis.
Another thing to consider is that no one at Senomyx or Pepsi will admit that they are actually using this cell line. Now, there are patents which suggest that this might be true, but neither company will say anything. Considering the extreme reaction from those who don’t science well, can you blame them? These are the same people who think eating nopal (cactus) will cure diabetes.
People who do not understand science, or who flat out reject science, don’t see a difference between aborted tissue and a cell line, but there truly is a difference, even if it is beyond the understanding of John and Jane Doe.
Pepsi will only state that their relationship with Senomyx is to help reduce sugar in their future products and that Senomyx does not make their products. They also refer people to read their Responsibility Statement, which claims that they do not fund or conduct research on human embryos or cell lines.
By the way, this story isn’t new, it’s been around since at least 2010, but it makes the rounds every now and then. Boycotting Pepsi or any other company is simply ridiculous. Becoming more familiar with science and how it works would be the best bet for anyone who still believes that they are eating dead baby cells.