A California environmental group is suing several producers of popular fish oil products for excessive contamination in their fish oils. The group, Mateel Environmental Justice Foundation, found that fish oil supplements from CVS Pharmacy, Nature Made, Rite Aid, GNC, Solgar, Twinlab, Now Health, Omega Protein and Pharmavite contained excessive levels of PCBs. California law requires that consumers not be exposed to more than 90 nanograms of PCBs, but some of the products sampled contained up to 850 nanograms, nearly 10 times the legal amount!
This recent news, along with a recent UK study by the Food Standards agency (the UK equivalent of the FDA) that found many brands contained excess levels of dioxin, underscores the importance of only buying fish oil products that are certified toxin free by the International Fish Oil Standards program. The IFOS program is a voluntary third-party testing organization that tests fish oil along the strictest standards in the world.
Here are IFOS’ testing criteria for a product to receive 5-star certification:
- Passes All CRN/WHO Testing Categories
- PCB Levels Less than 50% of CRN Standard
- 60% Omega-3 Concentration or Higher
- Oxidation Levels Less than 75% of CRN Standard
- Dioxin Levels Less Than 50% of WHO Standard
CRN is the Council for Responsible Nutrition, and WHO is the World Health Organization. The IFOS program was created in response to the lack of regulation of fish oil products around the world. While the CRN limits PCB levels to 90 part-per-billion, many IFOS certified fish oils have close to 1 part per billion!
While other countries like Canada and Norway strictly regulate their fish oil supplements, the United States is much more lax in their regulations. As such the IFOS program is most important for consumers in the US.