Finds Omega-3 Fish Oil Supplements Safer Than Fish But Quality Varies Among Brands

-- Test of 41 Supplements Finds No Mercury or PCB Contamination,
Some Spoiled or Lacking Claimed Oils --

WHITE PLAINS, NY - DECEMBER 14, 2004 - announced today that tests of 41 omega-3 fish oil supplements (including 3 marketed for pets) showed safe levels of mercury and PCBs. However, three products did not contain their claimed amounts of EPA and DHA ( key omega-3 fatty acids ) or were spoiled. EPA and DHA are associated with a reduced risk of heart disease, are of potential benefit in treating diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, and may reduce the risk of prostate cancer. DHA may also be useful to infants and mothers due to its role in the functioning of the brain and retina in the fetus and infants and possibly reducing the risk of premature delivery.

Fish oil supplements are one of the fastest growing categories of supplements, with sales up 35% in 2003 to $192 million according to Nutrition Business Journal. Interest in fish oil supplements has grown significantly since 2000, when the FDA began allowing the claim that omega-3 oils may reduce the risk of heart disease. Interest in supplements as a source of these oils was further stimulated by reports this year of contaminants in commonly consumed fish, such as mercury in albacore ('white') tuna and PCBs in farmed salmon.

The lack of contaminants in the fish oil supplements tested may be explained by the fact that most of the mercury in fish is found in the meat and not the oil; the species of fish used to make supplements are typically not those that are likely to accumulate mercury; and distillation processes used in making supplements help remove contaminants.

"Because of how they are made, supplements are a great alternative to fish as a source of beneficial omega-3 fatty acids," said Tod Cooperman, M.D.,'s president. Dr. Cooperman cautioned, however, that not all supplements have the oils they claim or as fresh as they should be.

The three products that failed the testing had the following problems:

  • A product sold in capsule form contained only 51% of the claimed EPA and only 59% of its DHA despite a statement on its label that it was manufactured following Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs).
  • A liquid product was spoiled, as indicated by an elevated amount of both peroxide (indicating recent spoilage) and anisidine (indicating longer-term spoilage).
  • A supplement marketed for pets and humans contained only 53% of its claimed EPA.

Twenty-four of the products listed in the report were tested at the request of their manufacturers. Several of these were also subjected, at their manufacturers request, to testing for dioxins, which were not found. The new report is found at The report provides extensive information on using fish oil supplements. Reviews of other popular types of supplements are also available from at and new reviews soon to be released include nutrition bars, alpha-lipoic acid, supplements used for menopause, and B vitamins. is a leading provider of consumer information and independent evaluations of products that affect health and nutrition. The company is privately held and based in White Plains, New York. It has no ownership from, or interest in, companies that manufacture, distribute, or sell consumer products. is affiliated with (, an evaluator of online pharmacies. Subscription to is available online. For group subscriptions, Technical Reports, or product testing contact Lisa Sabin, Vice President for Business Development, at [email protected].


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