The International Fish Oil Standards (IFOS) Program, a third party fish oil testing and certification program provided by Nutrasource Diagnostics Inc., is now testing fish oil samples for radiation, with Wiley’s Finest as the first adopter.
“Radiation testing using established FDA guidance on methods will be fully integrated into the IFOS testing program going forward so that our customers’ brands may further position themselves as premium brands to the omega-3 consumer marketplace globally,” said William Rowe, founder of the IFOS Program and President and CEO of Nutrasource.
“Consumers and retailers have shown an increased awareness and requirement for informed choice since the Fukushima tragedy, and this addition to the IFOS Program assists with consumer education and empowerment in everyday omega-3 supplement choices.”
According to NDI, there has been a substantial increase in consumer inquiries in the wake of Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant disaster of 2011 regarding the safety of marine products sourced from these regions, including fish oil supplements. To respond to this demand, IFOS will now test fish oil samples against more stringent criteria than the guidelines set by the U.S. FDA, Health Canada and CODEX.
Bob Brems, Wiley’s Finest Quality Assurance Manager, explained that they requested NDI to add Radiation Testing to the standard IFOS testing regimen for the Wiley’s Finest products. “NDI agreed that radiation is an important area of consumer concern and decided to include the additional Radiation testing requirement for the entire IFOS program,” he said. The first two products to participate in the enhanced IFOS program are Peak EPA and Prenatal DHA.
Low but steady interest
Adam Ismail, the executive director of the Global Organization for EPA and DHA Omega-3s (GOED), told NutraIngredients-USA that the organization has seen a low, but steady, volume of questions from consumers regarding radiation concerns since the Fukushima incident, and in particular many natural foods channel retailers have been worried about this.
“However, we have seen no data at all that show there is any concern for human health,” he said. “A couple of studies have been published in peer-reviewed journals showing that Fukushima radiation has been detected in long-migration fish like tuna, but at levels so low that they are not of concern. As one study put it, eating this tuna every day for a year would expose you to less radiation than you are exposed to by sleeping next to your spouse for 40 nights (people put off their own radiation). All of the fish oil tests we have seen have shown non-detectable or extremely low levels of radiation, multiples lower than regulatory limits.
“However, consumers are asking about this and we expect them to continue asking as long as the Fukushima plant continues to be an issue. It would be ideal, for the sake of transparency, for companies to know what the levels are like in their oils and to be able to provide data when consumers ask.”
‘Concerns generalized to all fish oils’
Sam Wiley, CEO of Wiley’s Finest, told us that the company’s store level interactions with supplement managers, supplement staff, and consumers in the natural channel have consistently communicated that radiation contamination in fish oil is a significant concern with consumers.
“I would say supplement staff in general don’t really think it’s an issue, but it does appear to be at least a contributing factor to some of the downturn we have seen in omega-3s. A few months ago we thought it was a concern isolated mostly to the west coast, but we are consistently getting feedback from other regions.
“We’re also seeing that there is not a lot of correlation between source (say Alaska vs South America) and concern levels – it appears to be generalized to all fish oils.”
The IFOS program is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, and has reports available for 86 companies listed on its new website (http://www.nutrasource.ca/ifos/) covering hundreds of individual of skus.