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Fresh or Rotten?

Most of the Omega-3 fish oil available on the market is made from rotten oil from South America (see the Rubin Report below). This may surprise you until you consider that Omega-3 is a big industry made especially lucrative when the oil is sourced cheaply and sold expensively.

On paper, European companies must only import oil from EU-certified producers, where the quality of the raw material is known to be fit for human consumption. In practice, EU regulation is not enforced beyond EU borders, and both importers and exporters find it easy to skirt the law. Once in Europe, the rotten oil is quickly refined behind closed doors. Refining disguises the effects of rot temporarily, but the rot soon returns.

fresh omega-3 - CopyWhat are the safety issues with eating rotten fish oil?

Rotten seafood is a major cause of salmonella food poisoning, causing vomiting, diarrhoea, and hospitalisation in severe cases. However, eating just a tiny amount – most capsules contain ½ml – of rotten fish oil is unlikely to bring on vomiting. Instead, this daily-ingested rotten oil assaults your immune system, weakening your natural defences against other risks, and causing you tiredness.

This is particularly shameful in the case of the elderly and the frail, many of whom take daily Omega-3 capsules trusting that these will improve their health.

How do I know if my Omega-3 fish oil is fresh and safe?

totox_1Most branded companies will not risk lying outright about the source and the freshness of their oil. Conversely, a company that has nothing to hide will happily display:

  • Where the fish and the oil come from

  • A freshness measure on the TOTOX scale (the lower the better)

  • The time elapsed between catching the fish and extracting the oil

If the company does not display most, or ideally all of this information on the label of the product, then a cautious consumer should assume that the company has something to hide.

Incidentally, NOR-OIL displays this information on all its packaging:

NOR-OIL Virgin Salmon Oil, made in Norway from 100% fresh Norwegian salmon, extracted within 75 minutes of catch from the Norwegian Arctic. TOTOX less than 2.

75 minutes of catchAt NOR-OIL, freshness and quality is top priority. Our salmon are caught in clean arctic Norwegian waters and the oil is extracted within an incredible 75 minutes of pulling the fish from the sea, under nitrogen in a temperature-controlled environment. This makes NOR-OIL the freshest fish oil on the world market.

Fast extraction after catch and avoiding exposure to oxygen and heat are key to freshness. In addition, to ensure NOR-OIL Premium Omega-3 Oil remains fresh after sealing, we use a specially-developed naturally-based antioxidant.

Freshness is not only important for safety and basic decency – the effectiveness of Omega-3 health benefit also depends on the fresh integrity of the oil. As the oil degrades and rots, it becomes less effective and is much less easily absorbed by the body. This is why we believe – and our customers tell us – that NOR-OIL, as the freshest fish oil on the world market, is more effective even at lower doses than other, less fresh Omega-3 fish oils.

Rotten fish oil polluting the market and putting health at risk – the Rubin Report No. 196, 2010

In 2010, The Norwegian goverment asked an independent scientific team, headed by Dr Rubin, to test the 113 best-selling Omega-3 fish oil products on the Norwegian market.

Norway is one of the richest countries in the world, with by far the largest sovereign wealth fund, no national debt, a high typical income and a shared sense of pride in quality and cleanliness. So how many of the Omega-3 products do you think tested rotten? A few? One? None?

You might be shocked to learn that 109 out of 113 tested rotten. Some of the Omega-3 products were extremely rotten – way up the oxidation chart.

best in test omega3 - CopyThe Norwegians were certainly shocked. They had naturally assumed that the top krone they were paying for so-called ‘top grade’ Omega-3 was buying …well, top grade Omega-3 – not rotten fish oil ! Almost as shocking was the news that nearly all of the rotten fish oil came from the same place – not Norway as many had been led to believe, but South America. The scientists were easily able to distinguish the origin of the fish oil because of its unique bio-chemical markers – North Atlantic fish are different to South Atlantic and Pacific fish.

A team of investigative journalists travelled to South America to lift the lid on the global trade in rotten fish oil. Their grim discoveries were broadcast on Norwegian television. The oil was traced to the huge fishing industries of Peru and Chile where for several months a year, thousands of trawlers travel far out to sea to harvest mainly mackerel and anchovies. The work is hard and the health and safety precautions rudimentary or non-existent. TV footage shows fish being landed three days after catch at sea with no refrigeration, fish being processed and oil being extracted in the open air in the sun, and oil being stored (again without refrigeration) in barrels for up to eight years. The fish oil is treated as a waste product – routinely dumped illegally. The journalists uncovered evidence of large scale environmental pollution as a result of dumping toxic fish oil along the coastline.

Waste oil that isn’t dumped is shipped to European companies, but here the journalists were flatly refused entry or interview. Clearly the big Omega-3 producers had something to hide.

What the journalists were able to establish without doubt, was that this rotten South American fish oil was being imported very cheaply and delivered to European refineries. The vast majority of Omega-3 fish oil on the European market is refined oil, originating from South America, and processed by companies like these. By ‘vast majority’ we mean 109 of the 113 most popular Omega-3 fish oils on the Norwegian market. If it can happen in Norway, it can happen anywhere – and it still does. There is currently still no law against the purchasing or the selling of rotten fish oil for dietary supplements.