FDA urged to fund IOM omega-3 review

By Shane Starling

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Omega-3 fatty acid, Iom

The omega-3 industry has met with the Food and Drug Administration to urge the agency to fund a review of the status of omega-3 in the US food supply – including dietary reference intakes (DRI).

The Institute of Medicine last performed such a review in 2002 and came up with levels of 1.6 grams per day of alpha-linolenic acid for men and 1.1 grams for women. It stated, "EPA and DHA can contribute up to 10 percent"​ (160mg) of this total amount of omega-3 fatty acids.

Industry has been calling for a review for some time to reflect advances in the scientific literature and wants the FDA to fund it. It hopes a review will help classify the nutrient with strong cardiovascular and brain health links as an essential nutrient.

It is estimated such a review will cost about $1.5m. The IOM has hinted omega-3 could be the next nutrient it reviews when it completes a review of vitamin D and calcium – expected around October this year.

Excellent source of omega-3

The call comes at a time the FDA has been conducting a separate review of “excellent source”​ omega-3 content claims food manufacturers have been able to employ on-product since 2004 on products containing 32mg of EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid).

The FDA has been reviewing this rule since 2007 but is yet to reach a conclusion about whether to amend or even scrap it.

“FDA gave no indication when this revision would be complete,” ​said Adam Ismail, the executive director of the Global Organization for EPA and DHA Omega 3s (GOED) of last week’s meeting. If the claims are scrapped new rules will kick in from January 1 2011, and companies will have a year to make on-product labeling changes meaning January 1, 2012 is the earliest any changes could be enforced.

The 32mg dosage currently needed to qualify for a claim is based on an ‘adequate intake’ level of 160mg/day established by the US Institute of Medicine (IOM). Like all nutrient content claims in the US, a product can claim to be an “excellent source” ​of a nutrient if it contains 20 percent of the average daily requirement levels of that nutrient.

GOED is preparing to petition the US Institute of Medicine (IOM) to establish a recommended daily allowance for omega-3 EPA/DHA.

“We’re hoping that within three years we can convince them to revise reference intakes for EPA/DHA, which would then make this whole issue a mute point,”​ Ismail told NutraIngredients-USA.com.

The general consensus in the scientific community is that a recommended daily intake level for omega-3 EPA/DHA should be set at a minimum of 500mg.

GOED submitted comment to the Institute of Medicine (IOM) in September 2009 calling for an expert panel to be established to consider the matter of omega-3 DRIs.

The petition can be found here .

GOED asserts that a DRI could dramatically reduce healthcare costs via increased omega-3 consumption, an assertion backed by 2009 Harvard university research that found omega-3 deficiency was linked to 96,000 preventable deaths.

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1 comment

Disclosure of Sources

Posted by Michael,

The article doesn't mention that the petitioner, ther "Global Organization for EPA and DHA Omega 3s," is a supplement industry trade group. Indeed, it's hard for a disinterested member of the public to know this, because there is no 'about us' link on their homepage, and there's no disclosure of membership in the "Members" section: you have to go under "Industry" and then "Find GOED Members" to see this, and even then there is just a list, not an explicit statement of the purpose and structure of the organization.

This lack of transparency doesn't speak well of the organization, and it's the responsibility of journalists to make clear the interests behind organizations.

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