Orivo, which was previously known as OmegaVeritas, started developing the method a number of years ago in conjunction with Norwegian research organization SINTEF and first presented it to the industry at the GOED Exchange in the Canary Islands in February 2016. The NMR (Nuclear Magnetic Resonance) technique can differentiate isotope ratios in the elemental composition of omega-3 oils. For fish oil, this would look at hydrogen and carbon, and in krill oil and other high-phospholipid sources of omega-3s, phosphorus would also form part of the test. The test is sensitive enough to differentiate oils from different regions, as the distribution of isotopes is not uniform around the globe. At the GOED meeting Orivo CEO Svein Erik Haugmo showed a sample test in which the technology could determine that a given lot of oil came from anchovies harvested in northern Peruvian coastal waters.
Potential risk mitigation tool
Fish oil has long been a globalized market. With the advent of the Global Organization for EPA and DHA Omega-3s (GOED), which established baseline specifications and quality measures for the ingredients, all fish oils are more or less equivalent, at least in terms of baseline quality and minimum EPA and DHA content. So there is no basis for claiming that a dietary supplement whose raw material came from, say, Peru (and has a similar EPA and DHA profile) is better than or inferior to one from Norway or elsewhere on a functional basis.
But companies are seeking ways to differentiate their products, and some of these messages hinge on the ‘purity’ of the home waters where the fish are caught. So origin is important in that case. And a globalized market carries its own risk in these post-melamine scare days. For a product that has a generic ingredient callout such as, “Anchovy, sardine or menhaden oils,” who can say exactly where those fish were caught and how many hands the raw material passed through before winding up in the soft get?
Also, transparency is becoming the watchword for the entire consumer products industry, said Adam Ismail, executive director of GOED. This is more about trust with the consumer than avoiding adulteration, he said, as that has not been much of an issue in the fish oil sphere.
“I do think this development is important. One thing that’s clear is that consumers and consumer watchdog groups want more transparency from products,” he told NutraIngredients-USA.
“It’s hard to adulterate an omega3 oil because they are relatively inexpensive. When you have crude fish oil selling for less than $2 a kilo it’s hard to economically adulterate something like that. But it could be a risk mitigation tool for the industry if they can reliably verify the source of origin,” he said.
“We have tried to continuously improve on the transparency of what we tell the consumers,” Ismail added.
First source verification
Peruvian supplier Golden Omega recently became the first company to use Orivo’s technology to verify the source of its oils. Orivo has verified that all the raw material involved in Golden Omega’s production is pure anchovy from the South Pacific Ocean. The authenticity will be continuously verified through raw material monitoring, added the company.
Claudio Aracena, commercial director of Golden Omega, commented: “For the first time we are now able to certify through a 3rd party test that our products are based only on authentic anchovy oil from the South Pacific Ocean. We have of course never had doubts about it — we see this rather as a very valuable tool to offer all our clients full transparency about the marine resource that is being used in all our concentrates.
“The feedback so far from our customers is also that this certification will be very valuable and assuring for them and the consumers of their products.”
Development of methods for high concentrates
Now with the help of GC Rieber, SINTEF and the University of Nantes in France, Orivo is seeking to further validate the technology so that it can reliably verify the highly concentrated oils that are becoming the mainstays of the market.The aim is to investigate the potential of several highly advanced laboratory technologies to be used for authentication of omega-3 concentrates. The knowledge developed in this feasibility study shall form the basis for a larger R&D-project, where the goal will be to develop a 100% precise laboratory test for verifying the origin of any product based on omega-3 concentrates. The ambition is that the technology, which will be developed in close collaboration with the industry, will be ready for the market within 2-3 years.
“We want to take our deep commitment to sustainable and responsible sourcing of fish oil one step further by participating in this project and develop a technology for authentication for omega-3 concentrates. Verifying that the omega-3 concentrates found in the supplements market meet the highest demands for quality, sustainability and food safety is a benefit to our customers and the entire industry," said Jan Roger Bjerkestrand, CEO of GC Rieber Oils.“Without the cooperation of the omega-3 industry, this project would not be possible. We are impressed by the commitment that GC Rieber Oils, representing a major player in the omega-3 supplements industry, has to sustainability and responsibility. This makes them a valued participant in this project," said Haugmo.