Why should you care about fish oil quality?
Fish oil is prone to oxidation because it is made up mainly of fats. When exposed to the oxygen in the air, the fat molecules in the oil start to break down. How does this affect fish oil quality? It can lead to an unpleasant “fishy” smell and spoiled, rancid product.
Stability, also known as shelf life, refers to how quickly and easily a product will break down under the product’s directed storage conditions. Just like dairy and other products high in fat, fish oil is prone to spoilage and can quickly turn rancid – not ideal for those looking to supplement their diet with omega-3s.
Dietary Fish Oil Stability and Freshness
Fish oil stability can be a problem if the product wasn’t formulated correctly, not handled properly during manufacturing or stored in unsuitable conditions like excessive temperature or humidity. Fortunately, many fish oil companies formulate their products in such a way that ensures the oil remains fresh and stable and has a sufficient shelf life. Still, the only way to make sure the product remains fresh after being manufactured, encapsulated and bottled is to test the final fish oil product before it makes its way to the shelf by measuring peroxide, anisidine and total oxidation which tells scientists, formulators and manufacturers if a product has begun to break down and whether it is safe to be consumed or not.
How do I know if my brand has been appropriately tested?
One way consumers can be sure their fish oil supplements have been tested and are fresh and thus stable is to ensure their brand carries the IFOS™ logo. The International Fish Oil Standards (IFOS™) Program is the only global third party testing and certification program for fish oils. IFOS™ sets strict international standards for fish oil quality.
What does each stability test category mean?
Peroxide is a chemical substance that is produced when fats and oils become rancid. Too much peroxide in a fish oil sample means the product has ‘gone bad’ and is therefore not suitable for consumption. The IFOS standard for peroxide is less than or equal to 5 meq/kg.
Anisidine is another compound that is produced when fats and oils break down. Excess levels of anisidine mean that a product is no longer fresh and should not be consumed. Anisidine is also responsible for the rancid smell of spoiled fats and oils. The IFOS standard for anisidine is less than or equal to 20 meq/kg.
Total oxidation (TOTOX) is calculated as 2 times the peroxide value plus the anisidine value. This calculation represents a product’s overall oxidative state. A TOTOX value in excess of 26 meq/kg means that the product has deteriorated so much so that it is no longer shelf stable or safe to consume. The IFOS standard for TOTOX is less than or equal to 19.5 meq/kg.
Acid Value is a common stability and quality measure for fats and oils of all types. This test is a measure of the presence of free fatty acid in a sample of material to confirm the level of triglyceride hydrolysis. The greater the level of hydrolysis, the more compromised the material. The cut off for IFOS certified products are 3 koh/g.
A new testing methodology: True Anisidine Value (TAV)
Although the above-mentioned anisidine value test has been a proven methodology for testing fish oil in the past, it has presented some difficulty today due to fish oil supplements being formulated with natural flavors such as lemon for added palatability. The traditional testing methodology may lead to false positive results for rancidity in flavored formulas. A groundbreaking testing methodology, the True Anisidine Value (TAV) Test is now available for all fish oil brands and is used by the IFOS Program when they are presented with any products containing naturals flavors which successfully overcomes the aforementioned obstacles.
Nutrasource Diagnostics’ President and CEO William Rowe said:
The Global Organization for EPA and DHA Omega-3 (GOED), and the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN) have been presented with the new TAV testing methodology and it has been included in industry monographs for fish oil quality, advance the industry with improved testing for freshness for fish oil consumers.
If you would like to check whether your fish oil supplement brand is up to the highest standards for shelf life and stability, search for them by going to www.ifosprogram.com.