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Fish Oil Pill Contamination Finding Revised

Tim Boyer's picture
Fish oil pill

A recent analysis made by Consumer Reports of several major brands of fish oil pills found that six out of fifteen popular fish oil pills did not meet quality standards. Problems with the pills included contamination with spoilage compounds and elevated amounts of PCBs as well as failure to pass U.S. Pharmacopeia (USP) disintegration testing. One fish pill maker has recently challenged Consumer Reports’ findings, which resulted in a revision that will not be published until the February 2012 issue of Consumer Reports.

The sale of fish oil pills is a growing market and proving to be a popular product with health conscious individuals looking for inexpensive and convenient sources of omega-3 fatty acids. In spite of common knowledge that most people can get enough omega-3 by eating fatty fish such as sardines and salmon, individuals with coronary heart disease typically need amounts of supplemental fish oil that would require eating more fish than is convenient or affordable.

To help consumers make cost-effective buying decisions of fish oil pills that adhere to claims labeled on their packaging, the January 2012 issue of Consumer Reports issued its analysis of what its independent laboratory assessment revealed.

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The claim in question challenged by the fish oil pill manufacturer Nordic Naturals, was that samples of Nordic Naturals brand fish oil pills tested positive for compounds that indicate spoilage. As a result of the finding of spoilage by Consumer Reports, Nordic Naturals Ultimate Omega brand of fish oil pill was listed as “not meeting quality standards” per Consumer Reports’ concluding report.

Recently, Consumer Reports has announced that the detection of spoilage compounds in samples of Nordic Naturals Ultimate Omega fish oil pills may be due to an error caused by lemon oil that is added to Nordic Naturals’ fish oil pills, but not in other brands. The lemon oil is used to help reduce the fishy taste that often accompanies fish oil pills.
According to the Consumer Reports website, they are revising their finding with respect to the Nordic Naturals brand of fish oil pill and have issued the following statement:

“Upon further review, we have found that the industry-standard spoilage test we used cannot reliably detect spoilage in products with lemon oil, and we could not identify any current well-established methodology for doing so. (Nordic Naturals was the only lemon-flavored product in our study.) Because the spoilage test cannot be applied, we couldn't keep Nordic Naturals Ultimate Omega in a report that required all products to undergo all tests. Nordic Naturals did meet every other quality measure in our study. The pills, which cost about 67 cents per day, or $243 per year, contained their labeled amount of omega-3 fatty acids and met other U.S. Pharmacopeia (USP) and European Union standards, including those for contaminants such as lead, mercury and dioxins. They also met the stricter California Proposition 65 standard for total polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). A correction will appear in the February 2012 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.”

Reference: Consumer Reports http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/2012/01/fish-oil-pills-vs-claims/index.htm