After all, omega-3s oils can’t be ‘fresh’ the way produce can. Oils that go into supplements may have been harvested many months prior to landing in a soft gel and starting their residence on a shelf. But it is a way to talk about quality, said Adam Ismail, executive director of the Global Organization of EPA and DHA Omega-3s (GOED).
“Using the term freshness is an easy way to understand the oxidative quality of an oil,” Ismail told NutraIngredients-USA. That marker is a moving target, and may be different at different times in an oil’s processing history. “Through refining, you can bring the oxidative status of an oil down,” he said.
That being said, a number of suppliers and finished goods manufacturers stress the tight control of their supply chains that ensure that as little oxygen as possible gets to the oil througout its lifespan until it gets to market.
“There is a marketing value to vertical intergration. There is an issue of trust. Consumers want to trust in the qualtiy of the product, because they are putting it into their bodies every day,” Ismail said.
One company that touts the quality of its manufacturing process for omega-3 oils is BASF. Joseph Moritz, Ph.D., Science Marketing Manager, BASF Nutrition & Health, will give a talk on omega-3s and freshness on Tuesday, Oct. 7 at the Omega-3 Summit (sponsored in part by GOED) held in conjunction with the Supply Side West trade show in Las Vegas, NV. Moritz said BASF applies a pharma approach to ensure the quality of their dietary supplement ingredients.
“We ensure ultra low oxidation with a very tightly controlled, pharmaceutical GMP process. The process is closed and held under nitrogen purge or low pressure, from the first process step all the way to finished drum. Antioxidants (for example, natural vitamin E) are also a must, ensuring a level of protection of the oil during its voyage to the customer,” Moritz said.
Not just about oxidation
But Moritz said the picture is more complex. The experience for the consumer is governed by several factors; it’s not just about oxidation.
“Oxidation is the most apparent aspect to consumers, and it is a key component of the initial impression the consumer has when using a product. As such it is very important. It is well known that oxidation results in a very disruptive consumer experience: off-odors and potentially issues with reflux,” Moritz said.
“Although it is an extremely important topic, in my presentation I will not just focus on oxidation. To us, the consumer experience really hinges on three prongs: Concentration, purity, and oxidation. These three prongs are the basis of our PronovaPure brand. We all want our omega-3 products to have their maximal effect. In my presentation I will describe how these three prongs impact the consumer's health benefit, and how to source to maximize each,” he said.
Ensuring a chain of custody is imperitve in maintaing the quality of the finished good, Ismail said.
“A lot of suppliers are capable of making a high quality oil but then they lose control of it when they sell it to a customer. A barrel could be opened for testing, for example, without replacing the nitrogen bath,” Ismail said.
“We give consultation to our customers on proper handling techniques, based upon our experience with pharmaceutical production. As mentioned before, we also add antioxidant to give some protection, however proper handling is still essential,” Moritz said.
Quality as pillar for whole category
The quality of manufacture is a key component for supporting sales across the category, Ismail said. Poorly manufactured or handled oils are not a safety issue, but do seem to be a primary reason consumers have a poor experience.
“It’s really a quality issue and we do need to work on oxidative status. The primary reason people give for leaving the category is fishy burps,” Ismail said.
“The real safety issue is the presence of contaminants, such as persistent organic pollutants or heavy metals. Unlike oxidation, presence of contaminants is not immediately obvious to a consumer. In my presentation, I will provide an in depth comparison of fish oil vs. whole fish from a contaminant perspective, and discuss processing technology to remove these contaminants. We should not stop as an industry until contaminants are essentially zero in our products,” Moritz said.
BASF will be unveiling what it calls its new 'Consumer Health Approach' at its booth (No. 25101) at the trade show. The company says attendees will be able sample prototypes which can be adapted into innovative new dietary supplements and Over The Counter (OTC) products.