Rumor: Someone Put HIV+ Blood in Pepsi Cola

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"Urgent Message"

Pepsi-Cola
Netlore Archive: Rumor circulating via text message and social media claims Pepsi products have been purposely tainted with HIV-positive blood. Justin Sullivan / Getty Images News / Getty Images

A viral rumor has been circulating since at least 2004 claiming that a worker put HIV-infected blood into a cola company's products. The rumor is false — a complete hoax — but read on to find out the details behind the urban legend, how it got started, and the facts of the matter, according to health officials

Example Posting

The following posting, which was shared on Facebook on Sept. 16, 2013, is fairly representative of the rumor alleging HIV-infected cola:

There's news from the police. Its an urgent message for all. For next few days don't drink any product from pepsi company's like pepsi, tropicana juice, slice, 7up etc. A worker from the company has added his blood contaminated with AIDS.. Watch MDTV. please forward this to everyone on your list.

Analysis: An Old Urban Legend

Versions of the same rumor have made the rounds previously, in 2004, and again in 2007-2008. In those previous instances, the food products allegedly contaminated with HIV-positive blood were ketchup and tomato sauce, but the status of the claim was the same: false. 

No legitimate sources, media or governmental, have reported any such occurrence. Moreover, even if such an incident had occurred, it would not have resulted in the spread of AIDS, according to medical experts.

CDC Debunks Myth

This is how the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explains it:

You can’t get HIV from consuming food handled by an HIV-infected person. Even if the food contained small amounts of HIV-infected blood or semen, exposure to the air, heat from cooking, and stomach acid would destroy the virus.

A CDC fact sheet also reported that the agency has never documented any incidents of food or beverage products being contaminated with HIV-infected blood or semen, or incidents of HIV infection transmitted via food or beverage products.

"Old Hoax" Resurfaces

As recently as 2017, the urban legend resurfaced — this time in a viral rumor posted on. Aug 21 of that year. The post, which appeared on the website of Washington, D.C., television station  WUSA 9, reads in part:

WUSA9 News was contacted by several viewers who saw this text message being shared on social media as a warning. The message reads: Important message from Metropolitan Police to all citizen of United Kingdom. 

“For the next few weeks do not drink any products from Pepsi, as a worker from the company has added blood contaminated with HIV (AIDS). It was shown yesterday on Sky News. Please forward this message to the people who you care.”

WUSA9 News researchers contacted United Kingdom Department of Health Media & Campaigns Executive, Lauren Martens who confirmed the message is a hoax and also not shown on Sky News. Martens also said Metropolitan Police did not have any issued statement about this message.

The television station also contacted the CDC, which — as noted above — said that you can't get HIV "from consuming food handled by an HIV-infected person." WUSA also contacted PepsiCo spokesperson Aurora Gonzalez from who called story an “old hoax.”