Bill Gates didn't buy apple cider vinegar company; false claim has no 'Apeel' | Fact check

The claim: Bill Gates bought an apple cider company, changed the ingredients

A Nov. 30 Instagram post (direct link, archive link) shows photos of billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates and a bottle of Bragg apple cider vinegar.

“Bill Gates buys apple cider company and changes the ingredients,” reads the text superimposed on the photos.

The post also includes a clip of comedian Whitney Cummings appearing on Joe Rogan's podcast and discussing the purported purchase and a supposed switch of the apples used to make it.

It was liked more than 7,000 times in 12 days. Similar versions accumulated hundreds of shares and thousands of likes.

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Our rating: False

Bragg says the claim is false and that it's still owned by the same investors who bought it in 2019, a group that includes Katy Perry and Orlando Bloom. It also says the ingredients in the apple cider vinegar have not changed.

Investment group, Katy Perry still own company

Fitness enthusiast Paul Bragg founded Bragg Live Foods more than a century ago to produce health foods and supplements, including apple cider vinegar, the company website says. Patricia Bragg, his former daughter-in-law, led the company from 1958 until 2019, when it was sold to a group of investors that includes Perry and Bloom and is led by private equity firm Swander Pace Capital, according to trade publication Bevnet.

The company says it is still owned by that group and has not been sold to Gates, the co-founder of Microsoft, as the post claimed.

Fact check: Apeel produce coating edible, considered safe by FDA

“Bill Gates does not own Bragg,” says a Nov. 17 post on the company’s verified Instagram account.

Other slides in the company's post explain that the company is still privately held by a group picked by Patricia Bragg before her death in August. It includes Perry, who is described as a family friend of the Braggs.

The Nov. 30 post with the false claim also includes a clip of Cummings’ Nov. 10 appearance on "The Joe Rogan Experience" podcast. In it, Cummings claimed that Gates not only bought the apple cider vinegar company but “is putting the apples in it with that.”

“Oh, the Apeel?” Rogan interjected.

California-based Apeel Sciences produces a plant-based solution called Edipeel. It claims the coating keeps fruits and vegetables fresh longer and its ingredients are generally recognized as safe by the Food and Drug Administration. Perry and Oprah Winfrey are among the celebrities who invested in the company in 2020, according to multiple published reports.

But the apples used to produce Bragg’s vinegar are not treated with the solution, the company said Nov. 14 in an Instagram post.

“We do not use Apeel coated apples for our (apple cider vinegar),” the post says.

Its caption explains that the coating “would add another step to our juicing process. Which means it would take us longer to produce" the vinegar.

While the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation awarded grants to Apeel in 2012 and 2015, the organization is not an active investor and Gates has no involvement with it, according to the company's website.

Gates and Apeel have been subjects of previous baseless conspiracy theories. Among claims debunked by USA TODAY are false assertions that Gates posted on social media about including mRNA vaccines in the food supply, that a study found lab-grown meat from a company he supports causes cancer and that the Apeel coating contains heavy metals.

USA TODAY reached out to spokespeople for Bragg, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Swander Pace Capital, Cummings and Perry, and to the social media users who shared the post, but did not immediately receive responses.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: No, Bill Gates did not buy Bragg's cider vinegar company | Fact check