Fish oil is one of the most commonly consumed dietary supplements in the world. A source of the omega-3 fatty acids EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), fish oil provides a convenient way for individuals to get the nutrition they need for optimal health, wellness and disease prevention.
Unfortunately, not all fish oils are created equal! There are products on the market today that have significant quality problems that can affect the safety and effectiveness of the fish oil.
WHY YOU SHOULD BE CONCERNED ABOUT FISH OIL QUALITY
Common fish oil quality concerns include:
Active ingredient content: Some products have been found to contain less active ingredient (specifically EPA and DHA) than stated on the product label. This means that the fish oil you are paying good money for may not be providing the dose of omega-3’s that you think it is.
Contaminants and heavy metals: Certain toxic chemicals found in the environment have a tendency to bioaccumulate in the fatty tissues of fish. This means that oil derived from these tissues could contain excess levels of contaminants such as mercury and PCBs. Understandably, many people are concerned that the health risks associated with contamination could outweigh the benefits of taking fish oil.
Freshness (also known as shelf-life or stability): Freshness refers to how quickly and easily a product will break down under normal storage conditions. Just like dairy and other products high in fat, fish oil is prone to spoilage and can quickly turn rancid. Fish oil stability can be a problem if the product wasn’t formulated correctly, not handled properly during manufacturing or stored in unsuitable conditions like excessive temperature or humidity.
These quality problems are not only misleading and costly for you as a consumer but can put your health at risk.
THE IFOS PROGRAM: PROVIDING CONSUMERS PEACE OF MIND SINCE 2004
In 2004, well before product verification seals became mainstream, the International Fish Oil Standards™ (IFOS™) Program was founded to address the important issue of transparency in the fish oil industry.
As a third party testing and certification program, IFOS provides consumers with an easy, scientifically validated and transparent way to compare fish oil products before buying them.
After all, you deserve to know that the products you and your family are taking are fresh, effective and not contaminated with toxic chemicals.
HOW THE IFOS PROGRAM WORKS
IFOS is a voluntary program that fish oil companies around the world can subscribe to. Once a company enrolls in the program, they submit samples of their products for testing. The products are then analyzed by lot number using direct analysis.
WHAT IFOS TESTS FOR
IFOS tests fish oil samples for:
– Active ingredient content (e.g., omega-3’s [EPA + DHA]) compared to the label claim
– Contaminants: Total polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), dioxins and furans and dioxin-like PCBs.
– Heavy metals: Mercury, lead, total arsenic and cadmium.
– Stability: Peroxide, anisidine, total oxidation, acid value, and True Anisidine Value.
After a fish oil product is analyzed, the detailed testing results are published on the IFOS website in the form of a free downloadable Consumer Report. IFOS Consumer Reports list all the testing results for that specific lot and include a star rating (out of 5 stars) for each product by lot number. This information tells you whether or not a product has passed the IFOS standards for quality, purity and freshness.
ABOUT THE IFOS 5-START RATING SYSTEM
Fish oil products that have achieved a 5-star rating through IFOS:
– Have passed all IFOS testing categories
– Meet the label claim for active ingredient concentration
– Have an oxidation level (a measure of freshness) less than 75% of the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN) standard
– Contain less than 50% of the CRN standard for PCBs (an environmental contaminant)
– Contain less than 50% of the World Health Organization (WHO) standard for dioxins (an environmental contaminant)
The take-home message: fish oils that have received a 5 out of 5 star rating have been proven to be of the highest quality in the industry.
Companies that subscribe to IFOS are committed to transparency and the consumer’s right to know.
Reputable companies that care about the health and wellness of their customers have not only taken steps during the manufacturing process to ensure that their fish oil is pure, safe and effective, but they have gone above and beyond to prove this to their customers by getting IFOS certified.
IFOS subscribers like Prospect Life recognize the importance of transparency for consumers like you and are willing to ‘bare it all’ by publishing their testing results (conducted by a third party, not just their own laboratory) in the public domain – free for anyone to access online at any time.
IS YOUR FISH OIL IFOS CERTIFIED?
To find out if a product is truly IFOS certified, follow these simple steps:
1. Find the lot or batch number on the product label. It should look similar to this: ‘Lot No. 1234’
2. Visit the Consumer Reports page on the IFOS website
3. Search by product name, company name or batch/lot number. Or, simply scroll down the page to view all companies that have IFOS certified products
4. Find the name of the company who makes the product and click on it to view the list of products that have been tested
5. Find the name of the product and click on it to display all the lots of that product that have been tested
6. Click on the batch/lot number that matches the one shown on the product label. This will open the product’s Consumer Report as a PDF file
7. You can now view, print or save the Consumer Report which contains all the testing results for that product!
CONNECT WITH IFOS ONLINE
Connect with the IFOS Program on Facebook and Twitter (@IFOS_Program). Also, be sure to check out the IFOS blog and subscribe to the monthly IFOS email newsletter for the latest fish oil news and research!