CRN Responds to Lawsuit: Fish Oil Poses No Health Risk

September 21, 2010

Following news of a lawsuit filed today accusing 10 fish oil supplements of failing to meet California...s Prop 65 mandates for toxins, the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN; Washington, DC) is assuring consumers that fish oil supplements pose no health risks.

Following news of a lawsuit filed today accusing 10 fish oil supplements of failing to meet California...s Prop 65 mandates for toxins, the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN; Washington, DC) is assuring consumers that fish oil supplements pose no health risks.

The lawsuit claims that 10 branded fish oil supplements were tested and found to show presence of polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB), an environmental pollutant that has been linked to cancer and reproductive toxicity. The defendants are CVS Pharmacy Inc., General Nutrition Corp. (GNC), Now Health Group Inc., Omega Protein Inc., Pharmavite LLC (Nature Made brand), Rite Aid Corp., Solgar Inc., and TwinLab Corp.

The lawsuit says that even products whose labels state had been refined to remove or reduce pollutants were found to contain traces of PCB. Prop 65 requires that any products sold in California that contain PCB levels over a certain threshold must carry labels warning the consumers.

In its response to the lawsuit, CRN...s Andrew Shao, PhD, senior vice president, scientific and regulatory affairs, for the Council for Responsible Nutrition (Washington, DC), cautioned industry and consumers that the actual levels of PCB found in the majority of the products tested by the lawsuit do not appear to exceed the Prop 65 threshold.

Shao also noted that California is the only state that whose labeling requirement employs the stringent 90 ppb PCB threshold. (FDA...s own permitted level of PCB in fish is markedly higher, at 2000 ppb.)

'It...s simply a labeling issue under a single state'”a statute for a single state'”that doesn...t affect any other state. It...s a labeling issue, not a safety issue,' Shao told Nutritional Outlook.

In a press statement, Shao added, 'This lawsuit does nothing to change the strong science supporting the many health benefits of fish oil, which range from cardiovascular health to cognitive development of infants and young children.'

Fish absorb PCB from their environment, and all oils extracted from fish initially contain trace amounts of PCBs, as do conventional food forms of fish. Fish oil supplements are usually refined to remove traces of PCB.

No official thresholds have yet been established to determine what level of PCB is harmful to consumers. 'Everyone probably has a tiny bit of either PCB or dioxins in them, and the best that science can tell us is don...t add any more,' says Chris Manthey, a plaintiff in the case.

The lawsuit...s plaintiffs have signaled their intent to test additional brands of fish oil supplements. 'There are more than 100 fish oil supplements on the market"and we have no way of knowing if others have more or less PCB contamination than these first 10 that we tested,' said David Roe, an attorney for the plaintiffs, in a press conference on March 2. Ultimately, he said, the plaintiffs would like to see fish oil marketers test for and reduce the levels of PCB in their products.

Benson Chiles, one of the plaintiffs, says, 'Our message to the public when it comes to fish oil supplements is buyer beware.'
In addition to environmentalists Chiles and Manthey, the plaintiffs are Mateel Environmental Justice Foundation, a nonprofit organization with a history of Prop 65 lawsuits.

The supplements selected for the study were chosen based on prior research by Greenpeace, as well as an Environmental Defense Fund survey of manufacturers.
Visit www.fishoilsafety.com for more information on the lawsuit.

List of fish oil supplements accused in lawsuit:
1. Nature Made Cod Liver Oil
2. Nature Made Odorless Fish Oil
3. TwinLab Norwegian Cod Liver Oil
4. TwinLab Emulsified Norwegian Cod Liver Oil
5. Now Foods Shark Liver Oil
6. Now Foods Double Strength Cod Liver Oil
7. Now Foods Salmon Oil
8. Solgar 100% Pure Norwegian Shark Liver Oil Complex
9. Solgar Norwegian Cod Liver Oil
10. GNC Liquid Norwegian Cod Liver Oil

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