Omega-3 Fish Oil Products – An Update on the Quality of Australian and New Zealand Products

Omega3 CentreWhat can you do in the face of a ‘flawed’ omega-3 research study?

This report appeared on a recent article by Kevin Krail, Executive Director from the Australian and New Zealand Omega-3 Centre, appearing in Food Navigator. It addresses a follow up article to a paper published in early 2015 reporting that New Zealand products contained substantially lower EPA+DHA content than label claims, and were also heavily oxidized.

This report builds on what has been seen as flawed research done on Omega 3 products sold in the Australian and New Zealand markets, assisting end users in understanding the high product quality assurance protocols that are already in place.

This is an important topic since;

  • The Australian and New Zealand market for complementary medicines is very big, and getting bigger.
  • Consumer use approaching 70%.
  • Annual spending in Australia alone of AUD4 billion (USD2.9 billion) per year and month-on-month double-digit growth rates.
  • Australian and New Zealand products are recognized for their high quality, clean and green image, and also for the regulatory controls that are in place.
  • Omega-3 oils category is the largest by volume and dollar sales, including, for example, fish and krill oils, and specialist oils like tuna and calamari oil, all in different formulations and concentrations.

It therefore came as a surprise when a University of Auckland scientific study (Fish oil supplements in New Zealand are highly oxidised and do not meet label content of n-3 PUFA by Alberts et al. (2015)) resulted in low claim compliance for EPA+DHA content on labels and high oxidation levels.

Besides a rough media coverage, and the surprise for the scientific community and consumers in general, it moved The Omega-3 Centre, its sister association in the USA, the Global Organization for EPA and DHA (GOED), the regional Australasian Section of the American Oil Chemists’ Society (AAOCS), the Australian government science agency CSIRO, the NZIC Oils and Fats Group and several other world known lipid science experts to examine the New Zealand study.

Several independent studies have been performed, before and after this research was published, with results showing quality compliance and no oxidation, bearing in mind the complexity to measure oxidation in a marine oil matrix.

It has been also surprising that the authors of the New Zealand Oils study did not contact outside experts to give advice on testing methods and the particular issues faced when analyzing finished product for their omega-3 content and quality parameters, as it is a standard procedure in these cases.

GOED and the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN) have worked closely together and have co-authored a new White paper – Oxidation in Omega-3 Oils: An Overview improving industry and researcher knowledge about oxidation testing protocols.

Overall, data shows that commercially available omega-3 supplements are low in oxidation products. It is clear that both studies used inappropriate methods to reach their conclusions, showing methodological flaws.

Full report - Omega-3 Fish Oil Products- An Update on the Quality of Australian and New Zealand Products