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Fish oil kingfish Robert Orr resigns

Robert Orr, who was instrumental in establishing quality and purity standards for fish oils around the world, has resigned as chairman of the Board of Ocean Nutrition Canada. If you feel confident in the safety and quality of your fish oils, you can thank Robert Orr.

Robert Orr, who paved the way for establishing quality standards that have kept the fish oils category growing greatly for the last decade, today has resigned as chairman of the Board of Ocean Nutrition Canada. In 1997, he helped launch the company, which is currently the world's largest fish oil supplier by volume.

More than anyone else, Orr started working a decade ago to develop a voluntary monograph on DHA and EPA. Under the auspices of the Council for Responsible Nutrition, the Omega-3 Working Group and its six founding members developed analytical methods, quality standards and purity standards for DHA and EPA.

“I don’t like to take credit. It took a large number of companies that didn’t let competitive differences get in the way of the larger promotion and protection of the category above all else,” Orr told Functional Ingredients magazine this morning. “That’s what will give consumers the confidence that they’re getting high-quality, efficacious products.”

Fish oil's quality standards

The monograph established standards for oils down to 25 percent EPA/DHA. Prior to that, all the industry had to go on was European pharmaceutical standards at high concentrates above 85 percent. For supplements, the market standard tended to be 180mg EPA and 120mg DHA within 1,000mg of fish oil, which represented 30 percent DHA/EPA.

“The monograph filled the gap for the supplements market,” said Orr. “We set an example of compiling the best standards across the globe in a voluntary monograph basis.”

At its peak, the CRN Omega-3 Working Group had 26 members. It formed the basis for the Global Organization for EPA and DHA Omega-3s, or GOED, which now has about 120 member companies worldwide.

Robert Orr“He’s been instrumental in establishing GOED and helping clean up the whole category, which has laid the foundation for growth,” said GOED executive director Adam Ismail. “The industry continues to move ahead because it’s science that’s driving it.”

Implications for the fish oil world

Orr’s departure from Ocean Nutrition Canada follows the departure of Bjorn Refsum, chairman of EPAX, which merged with krill supplier Aker BioMarine one year ago.

Orr leaves Ocean Nutrition—and the greater fish oils category—as a well-oiled machine. Last year, Orr stepped down as president and CEO of Ocean Nutrition Canada. He was succeeded by Martin Jamieson, who came from Loblaw Companies, Canada’s leading food retailer.

“Ocean Nutrition Canada has gotten to a place in their evolution that management skills are best suited to somebody else,” said Orr.

Earlier this year, in what will likely be seen as the icing on the cake of Orr’s tenure at Ocean Nutrition, the Canadian supplier announced a partnership deal with Wilmar International, the leading Chinese manufacturer of cooking oils. Its Arawana 3A+ cooking oil now contains 130mg per serving of Ocean Nutrition’s fish oil.

Ismail said that the cooking oil has racked up outsized sales of about $500 million in just its first six months.

He said the main issue for the fish oils industry today is in Europe, where regulators there are trying to establish upper intake levels at 1,500mg/day.

“That’s less than a tablespoon of cod liver oil,” said Ismail. “The normal diet of the Eskimos in Greenland, who started the craze, is 13 to 14 grams a day. As Jørn Dyerberg, the father of omega-3 research, has pointed out, the E.U. would be telling the Greenland eskimos to stop eating!”

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