Establishing the original monograph was one of the foundational activities of GOED, the Global Organization of EPA and DHA Omega-3s. Since that time, the market has changed significantly and a vast array of omega-3 products are available beyond the 18:12 base oils that were the benchmark when the organization was founded. The monograph is a cornerstone of GOED membership, as GOED members are required to comply with its specifications as a condition of membership. This is the fifth update to the monograph and it was ratified by a majority of the GOED membership.
“The monograph has become the minimum quality standard in the industry,” GOED Executive Director Adam Ismail told NutraIngredients-USA. Ismail said the monograph through its revisions has raised the quality bar worldwide and that the majority of omega-3 products conform to its specifications.
“We do see a very high compliance with the monograph specifications in the tests we have run, but there are still products out there that are not in full compliance,” he said. “We don’t typically see companies violating the contaminant levels, but we do see some variation in the way EPA and DHA are measured. I would say overall more than 85% of products are compliant with the monograph.”
Keeping up with a changing industry
The omega-3s market has developed rapidly, Ismail said, and new product forms have come forward almost yearly. When GOED was founded, oils from fish flesh and livers were the order of the day. Since then, scientists and product developers have found ways to derive omega-3s from multiple marine species such as squid, from underutilized parts of familiar species such as herring roe, and from algae. The monograph has to be continually revised to keep up, he said.
“One of the reasons we updated it was there was still some confusion out there as to what products the limits in the monograph applied to. Cod liver oils and flavored fish oils if they are made with a compliant base oil, for example, are now included. Calamari oils are now part of the monograph,” Ismail said.
Ismail said GOED has also created a set of Guidance Documents to explain differences in oil types and applicable methods. The GOED Voluntary Monograph sets a quality standard for oxidation, environmental contaminants and fatty acid analysis in omega-3 oils, while the new Guidance Documents are designed to help the industry understand other quality parameters specific to unique types of oils and how to select the right methods for analysis.
Among other specific changes in the monograph are these:
• Acid Value is no longer a required parameter to test in oils. Members now need to focus only on Oxidation, Environmental Contaminants, and the levels of EPA/DHA.
• The upper limit of 80% wt/wt EPA and DHA has been removed from the scope of the monograph. The scope now explicitly states that oils with less than 10% total omega-3 content do not fall within the scope of the monograph. Effectively the range of omega-3 PUFA concentration levels has been broadened, allowing more oils to fall within the scope of the monograph but the GOED Technical Committee has deemed that quantification at low total omega-3 PUFA levels is not sufficiently accurate below 10%.
• The scope of the GOED Voluntary Monograph now explicitly excludes crude unrefined oils.
• Recommended methods for the analysis of fatty acids, oxidation parameters, and environmental contaminants for oils that fall within the scope of the GOED Voluntary Monograph have been moved to the Guidance on Methods section of the Guidance Documents.
Krill oil put off for future
The best selling individual omega-3 skus feature krill oil, a raw material that is still not part of the monograph framework, Ismail said. GOED is in discussion with krill oil stakeholders to define specifications and testing methods that would work for these oils’ phospholipid structures, which are significantly different from the triglyceride forms now covered in the monograph. (Calamari oil, while also derived from an invertebrate, has a triglyceride backbone.) Some krill oils are blended with triglyceride fish oils. Another aspect of some krill oil products is their astaxanthin content, which some finished good formulators have taken to boosting with added astaxanthin (generally speaking, in base krill oil there is enough of the carotenoid present to color the oil red but not enough to make an antioxidant claim). Whether these formulators might choose to augment their products with natural algal astaxanthin or to use one of the synthetic forms on the market falls outside of GOED’s purview, Ismail said.
“Astaxanthin is not measured in all oils because it’s not present in all oils,” Ismail said. “The only thing we would say is that people need to accurately label and represent their products.”