Canada expands use of omega-3 in foods

Canada's regulatory waters may be friendlier for fish oil suppliers, now that Health Canada has approved two manufacturers' omega-3 products for use in foods.

Health Canada expanded its Novel Foods approval for Ocean Nutrition Canada (ONC), granted in 2003, which allowed its MEG-3 fish oil ingredient to be used in eight foods at a dosage of 50mg per serving. Now, following a safety assessment, ONC's ingredient can be used in virtually all foods and at a dosage of 100mg per serving.

In addition, Health Canada has permitted Martek Biosciences Corp to use DHASCO-T oil, its chief omega-3 product, as a food ingredient. As with ONC, it may be used in amounts of at least 8 mg and up to 100mg of DHA. Martek DHA was previously approved for use in infant formula in Canada

ONC noted of the approval: "Until now, companies have needed to use the precursor source of omega-3, alpha-linolenic acid … found in plant sources like flax." This issue, ONC said, has been a source of confusion to consumers, who may have thought they were getting the greater omega-3 boost that fish oil provides, when in fact only about 5 per cent of ALA is converted to EPA and DHA, the active forms of omega-3.

"Government bodies are recognising the importance of DHA to human nutrition throughout the lifecycle," said Henry "Pete" Linsert Jr., Martek's chairman and CEO.

Unfortunately, consumers don't yet have the same level of understanding. Unilever-owned Flora margarine has launched a high-level multimedia campaign in the UK to increase public awareness of the benefits of omega-3, after its own research indicated the omega-3 sell was not getting through to all sectors of the population, despite the abundance of positive press the ingredient has gained in the past year or two.

While Flora found 80 per cent of mothers were concerned their children were not eating enough essential fatty acids (EFAs), 58 per cent said they struggled to get their kids to consume oily fish. Adults fared little better. In such circumstances, supplementation and functional foods presented an obvious means to boost EFA consumption.

Flora's omega-3 campaign includes the use of celebrities to publicise its Flora Omega 3 Boost Guide — an information kit aimed at family members of all ages.

Research indicates omega-3 benefits brain, cardiovascular and joint health.

The British government recommends consumption of 450mg of DHA/EPA per day.

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