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Fish oil supplements have grown in popularity in recent years due to their health benefits and it’s important that testing for fatty acids is consistently accurate to support percentage claims on labels and in product information.

 

 

According to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) “food supplements are concentrated sources of nutrients or other substances with a nutritional or physiological effect, whose purpose is to supplement the normal diet”. The number of substances other than vitamins and minerals used in food supplements in the European market is estimated to be over 400. Some of the most popular are fish oils, probiotics and herbal ingredients. 

Fish oil supplements have grown in popularity in recent years due to their health benefits, leading to rapid expansion in the number of fish oil supplements available and their popularity amongst consumers.
Several studies suggest that eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA-omega-3) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA-omega-3) are beneficial to cardiovascular health. These fatty acids can be found in oily fish like salmon and sardines but also in fish oil supplements typically composed of cod liver oil. It is particularly important that the label claims for EPA and DHA are accurate, since a specific dosage may be required.
Opperman et al. (2011) tested 45 commercially available omega-3 supplements sold in South Africa, and found that 56% and 51% of the supplements failed to meet the lowest range of 89% for EPA and DHA concentrations stated on the label.

CODEX Alimentarius has recently (2017) issued a Standard for Fish oils that applies to the fish oils that are presented in a state for human consumption. According to this standard, Cod liver oil is derived from the liver of wild cod, Gadus morhua L. and other species of Gadidae and the range of fatty acid composition (expressed as % of total fatty acids) should fall within the appropriate range stated in the standard.

With this LGC Proficiency Testing sample laboratories can also demonstrate their ability to directly measure the derivatisation and analysis of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in a 100% fat sample without the need to extract the fat from a complex matrix beforehand. 

The new Sample 806, in the LGC QFCS food chemistry proficiency testing (PT) scheme is designed to support your quality testing for fatty acid determination in fish oil supplements.

This sample is available in our food chemistry proficiency testing scheme for the first time in round FC266 to be despatched 16th June 2018

 Fish oil supplements

References:
Opperman M, Marais DW and Spinnler Benade AJ, Analysis of omega-3 fatty acid content of South African fish oil supplements. Cardiovasc J Southern Afr 22:324–329 (2011).
European Commission, Food supplements, https://ec.europa.eu/food/safety/labelling_nutrition/supplements_en  (accessed 1/5/18).

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Comments

  • Who knows? I can't find any food surveys on UK FSA website these days. Strangely, nothing since 2014.....
  • As a regular consumer of fish oils, I find your article a little disturbing, if I am not receiving the appropriate dose of omega 3 fatty acids. Someone should organise a market survey.
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