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photo credit: FreePX

Some of the biggest fish in the marketplace might not be producing the best fish oil for consumers.

A lawsuit was recently filed in California against six manufacturers and two retailers that sell fish oil pills for failing to warn consumers that the product contained a cancer-causing chemical.  The suit was based on a study that indicated certain fish oils contained polychlorinated biphenyl compounds (PCBs), a cancer-causing chemical banned in 1979.

At issue, according to the plaintiffs’ attorney David Roe, is that there are no standards for PCB contamination in fish oil in the United States.   Chris Manthey of takes it one step further:  “We found what we think is the dirty little secret of the omega 3 fish oil industry; they have PCBs.”

Now before you get on the phone and call my office demanding a refund for your fish oils, relax.  The Natural Path Health Center doesn’t carry any of the fish oils implicated.  In fact, this latest development underscores the value of our careful approach toward selecting the safest, most effective supplements.

Levels of contaminants vary

PCB compounds are man-made, industrial chemicals.  Despite being banned over thirty years ago, they’re still present in the transformers of telephone poles.  They’re also present in the environment, and may be in some fish.

The study that discovered the PCBs was conducted for the Mateel Envionmental Justice Foundation.  A noteworthy aspect of its finding was the wide range of PCBs discovered in the fish oil supplements.   Roe notes that some of the test supplements exceeded California’s daily limit for PCBs by a factor of 10 in terms of cancer risk.

Manufacturers named in the suit contest the results.  Twinlab noted that its products were reported as having the lowest level of impurities, and the makers of Nature Made fish oil supplements stated that its products comply with all federal laws as well as “stringent” industry standards set by the Council for Responsible Nutrition.  The Council commented that PCBs are “ubiquitous” in the environment, which means all fish are likely to have a trace of the chemicals.

Even though many manufacturers treat their products to remove PCBs, no one clearly lists how much remain after the treatment.  “Even consumers who choose ‘treated’ supplements can’t know what PCB levels they’re swallowing,” said Chris Manthey, one of the plaintiffs.

The lawsuit also named manufacturers and retailers that include CVS pharmacy, GNC, Rite Aid, NOW, Solgar, and Omega Protein.

The naturopathic doctor’s reaction

Supplement quality is THE major concern across the supplement industry. This recent study highlights that the concern is real, and it is industry-wide. This most recent lawsuit was brought against many large retail brands such as NOW Foods, Twin Labs, Solgar, GNC, Omega Protein, CVS Pharmacy and Rite Aid. Fish oil supplements are a basic product all Americans should be taking, making this contamination situation a great concern.

We have discussed supplement quality on many occasions (see Why Quality Matters); this issue of supplement quality was one of the reasons I got into this business in the first place. Back in 1995, I found myself gravely ill and wanted to see if any supplements could help. However, my research found that almost all supplements available over the counter were of questionable and/or very low quality. Remember, my background is in chemical engineering and research and development, so I know how to make good quality supplements and how good manufacturing processes are run.

So I continued my research and found a number of high quality manufacturers that I trust. These are the products we sell.

Dr. Chad Recommends

In regards to fish oil, all of the manufacturers we carry test their products and provide us purity certificates, guaranteeing non-detectable quantities of heavy metals such as mercury, dioxin, PCBs and microbials. They also all have certified manufacturing facilities, comprehensive scientific evaluation of ingredients, comprehensive safety reviews, human clinical evaluations and industry-leading scientific staff and facilities.

You can use these products with confidence because we have done the research to find products that give you everything they are supposed to and nothing they are not supposed to. This goes for not only fish oils, but for all the products we carry.

Here are some of the highest quality, purity certified fish oil products you can find:

Orthomega gel caps – take 1-2 gel caps twice daily

EPA-DHA Balanced Liquid – take 1 tsp 1-2x/day

Orthomega Select DHA (high purity DHA) – take 1 soft gel twice daily

DHA LemonGels (chewable) – 1-2 soft gels 1-2x/day

Contact us to purchase Orthomega Select DHA and DHA LemonGels.