Stand up for the facts!

Our only agenda is to publish the truth so you can be an informed participant in democracy.
We need your help.

More Info

I would like to contribute

The Tennessee State Capitol is seen Monday, Jan. 22, 2024, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP) The Tennessee State Capitol is seen Monday, Jan. 22, 2024, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP)

The Tennessee State Capitol is seen Monday, Jan. 22, 2024, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP)

Sofia Ahmed
By Sofia Ahmed April 11, 2024

A Tennessee bill doesn’t ban vaccines from being pumped into the food supply

If Your Time is short

  • Tennessee House Bill 1984 would require food that contains vaccines to be classified as drugs by the Tennessee Department of Agriculture. It does not ban vaccines from food.

  • Edible vaccines, which are administered through food, have been in development since the 1990s but are not approved for use anywhere in the world. 

  • Learn more about PolitiFact’s fact-checking process and rating system.

A Tennessee bill that would designate vaccine-containing foods as drugs is being misleadingly characterized online.

"Tennessee has become the first State in America to ban Bill Gates’ toxic mRNA from being pumped into the food supply," read a screenshot of a news article posted April 6 on Facebook reads. The screenshot included a photograph of Tennessee’s Republican governor, Bill Lee, signing papers. 

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

Tennessee has not "banned" mRNA vaccines from food.  That’s partly because such edible vaccines — vaccines administered through foods — are not approved for use anywhere in the world, World Health Organization spokesperson Margaret Harris told PolitiFact.

The Facebook post’s screenshot is from a news article by The People’s Voice, a website that has spread misinformation before. The article refers to Tennessee House Bill 1894, which would classify vaccine-containing foods as drugs. But that bill mentions neither Microsoft Corp. co-founder Bill Gates nor anything about mRNA being banned from the food. Gates is a frequent conspiracy theory target. In 2023, we fact-checked, and rated False, a claim that Gates was poisoning produce with chemicals.

H.B. 1894 "classifies any food that contains a vaccine or vaccine material as a drug." When discussing the bill during a Tennessee Senate session, state Sen. Joey Hensley, R-Hohenwald, said he knew of no specific examples of vaccine-containing food in Tennessee. But he said such foods are in development.

A legislative study said that if the bill became law there would be no associated costs because "there is no known test for these vaccines in food and no known lab doing this kind of analysis."

Although the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not authorized use of edible vaccines, researchers are developing them in genetically modified foods such as potatoes, bananas, lettuce, corn and rice. 

Featured Fact-check

Researchers have long pursued edible vaccines as a cost-effective way to distribute, store and administer vaccines. The World Health Organization found they can be "produced cheaply in very high amounts." 

Charles Arntzen, a plant molecular biologist, was the first to produce a hepatitis B vaccine in tobacco in 1990. And, in 1998, researchers supported by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases reported the results of the first human trials of E. coli vaccines in potatoes. 

Despite these efforts, Arntzen said in 2004 that he hasn’t found vaccine manufacturers willing to finance larger human trials of edible vaccines. Edible vaccines vary by dose, which makes it difficult for regulatory agencies to approve them.

However, scientists are revisiting edible vaccines. University of California Riverside researchers, for example, announced in 2021 that they were studying whether mRNA vaccines can be administered through edible plants, such as lettuce.

The Tennessee House and Senate both approved H.B. 1894 April 8. Lee has not yet signed it into law. In Tennessee, if a bill is not signed by the governor after 10 days, it becomes law. 

The photograph of Lee signing a bill was first posted on Lee’s Facebook account in 2021, a reverse-image search found. 

We rate the claim that Tennessee has become the first state in the U.S. to ban Bill Gates’ mRNA from being pumped into the food supply False. 

RELATED: No, mRNA vaccines aren’t widely used in livestock and can’t get into the food supply 

Our Sources

Facebook post (archived), April 6, 2024

The People’s Voice, Tennessee Bans Bill Gates’ mRNA From Food Supply, April 2, 2024

PolitiFact, No proof a study found lab-grown meat funded by Bill Gates causes ‘turbo cancer’, Feb. 28, 2024

PolitiFact, Claims about the United Nations shunning Christians for not embracing pedophilia lack evidence, Aug. 11, 2023

PolitiFact, Study on possible COVID-19 brain effects looked at virus, not vaccines, May 18, 2023

Tennessee General Assembly, H.B. 1894, accessed April 9, 2024

Tennessee General Assembly Fiscal Review Committee, Fiscal Note H.B. 1894 - SB 1903, Feb. 3, 2024

Tennessee General Assembly, Senate Session - 56th Legislative Day, March 28, 2024

National Library of Medicine, Edible Vaccines, Oct. 22, 2013

U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Vaccines Licensed for Use in the United States, Dec. 1, 2023

Science Daily, First Human Trial Shows That An Edible Vaccine Is Feasible, April 30, 1998 

PolitiFact, No, mRNA vaccines aren’t widely used in livestock and can’t get into the food supply, Jan. 23, 2023

Tennessee General Assembly, How a Bill Becomes a Law, accessed April 9, 2024

Facebook post, May 14, 2021

Science Direct, Edible Vaccine, May 8, 2020

Nature Medicine, Edible vaccines not ready, Sep. 1, 2004

University of California, Grow and eat your own vaccines?, Sep. 16, 2021

Science Direct, Modern Applications of Plant Biotechnology in Pharmaceutical Sciences, 2015

World Health Organization, Plant-derived vaccines, accessed April 9, 2024

Email interview with Margaret Harris, World Health Organization spokesperson, April 9 - 11

Browse the Truth-O-Meter

More by Sofia Ahmed

A Tennessee bill doesn’t ban vaccines from being pumped into the food supply

Support independent fact-checking.
Become a member!

In a world of wild talk and fake news, help us stand up for the facts.

Sign me up