Fish oil capsules. (Photo: Stock File)
Some fish oil supplements are contaminated with toxins: study
Friday, December 09, 2011, 02:50 (GMT + 9)
US consumers’ demand for fish-oil supplements is higher than ever. Now industry-standard tests of 15 top-selling brands run by an outside lab for Consumer Reports showed that the products of five companies contain harmful levels of toxic compounds.
“In our recent tests, we found that some were not as pure as one might think,” stated Ronni Sandroff, editorial director of Health and Family at Consumer Reports, WebMD Health News reports.
The lab tested three lots of each brand purchased from stores in New York. All lots advertised their labelled amount of the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA.
The study found that none of the products exceeded limits for lead, mercury, dioxins or polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) set by the nongovernmental standard-setting group US Pharmacopeia (USP) or by the European Union (EU).
However, it was revealed that total PCBs were present in amounts that could require warning labels under California’s Proposition 65, a consumer right-to-know law, in one sample of the CVS, GNC and Sundown fish oil supplements and in two samples sold under the Nature’s Bounty brand product, Consumer Reports Magazine reports.
Remarkably, most of the pills tested claimed to be “purified” or “free” of PCBs, mercury or other toxins -- statements that lack a specific regulatory definition, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) pointed out.
Regardless, the FDA has not taken enforcement action against any omega-3 producer over PCBs or other contaminants because it does not consider their presence a public-health risk, an FDA spokesperson informed.
In addition, two samples of Kirkland Signature supplements failed the USP’s disintegration test for pills with enteric coatings designed to prevent a fishy aftertaste. Instead of breaking up in the small intestine as intended, the pills’ coating disintegrated in the stomach.
Notably, this was the case even though the Kirkland Signature pills are one of a few that are “USP Verified,” which indicates that the USP has tested and verified the ingredients, potency and manufacturing process labelled on the container.
Consumer Reports did find nine brands that met all the quality standards.
"Omega-3 fatty acids can reduce the risk of heart attacks and stroke," Dr John Santa of Consumer Reports added. "But most people can get enough by eating fatty fish at least twice a week."
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By Natalia Real