The Council for Responsible Nutrition's (CRN) Omega-3 Working Group this week announced it has ratified a voluntary monograph intended to raise the bar for the quality of long chain Omega-3 EPA and DHA products marketed in North America, in order to ensure greater consumer confidence in these beneficial nutrients. The announcement was made at the CRN 2002 Annual Conference held in Georgia from 6-9 October.
The Working Group, whose international membership includes 24 companies that supply or market long chain Omega-3 EPA and DHA globally, has been working on the voluntary monograph for over a year. There was also an input from regulators, standard-setting bodies, academics, and consumer groups, said CRN.
The monograph specifies a uniform standard of analysis, quality and purity criteria for long chain Omega-3 EPA and DHA which manufacturers and marketers throughout the industry will be urged to voluntarily adopt. The monograph identifies desirable limits for measures of oxidation in these polyunsaturated oils, which are uniquely susceptible to oxidative damage because of the large number of unsaturated bonds naturally characteristic of EPA and DHA.
Maximum limits are established for peroxides and for anisidine, two indicators of oxidation. In addition, a combined measure (called Totox) is established, to indicate that an acceptable oil should not reach the maximum for both measures.
The group recognised that fish, the primary natural source of EPA and DHA, exist in an environment that exposes them to undesirable contaminants. When properly refined, long chain omega-3 oils reduce contaminants to trace or non-detectable levels. Thus, highly refined oils in supplement form are superior to fish as a source of purified EPA and DHA. The monograph establishes stringent limits on any remaining traces of these substances, including dioxins, PCBs, and heavy metals such as mercury.
The recommended limits are consistent with current or emerging European standards and with limits established under California's Prop 65, claimed the CRN.
The voluntary monograph aims to offer a reliable guide in the purchasing and marketing of high quality long chain Omega-3 EPA and DHA. The working group said it would follow up on the monograph by submitting it for the consideration of official standard-setting bodies, including US Pharmacopeia, American Oil Chemists Society and the Association of Official Analytical Chemists.
It said that it would like to see standards equivalent to the voluntary monograph adopted by official bodies, providing added incentives to produce and market oils in accordance with these standards, for the benefit of the consuming public. Within the industry trade, the objective is to encourage broad compliance with the voluntary monograph by January 2003.
The scientific evidence supporting the health benefits of long chain Omega-3 EPA and DHA is impressive and is continually increasing, added CRN, and the Food and Drug Administration has authorised a qualified health claim for EPA and DHA for reducing the risk of coronary heart disease.
"Compliance with this monograph is intended to improve the quality of these products and consequently increase consumer use," the group said.