The company issued a statement squarely blaming now sacked managing director, Morten Broberg, and also said two other companies were involved.
A company spokesperson would not reveal the names of those companies, but said they were Danish although they were not omega-3 suppliers.
Skagen said the economically motivated adulteration that involved “mixing 3,200t of residue into fish oil” had been going on under its nose for three years and that an ongoing police investigation was not likely to conclude until the end of the year.
“The company will immediately start purification of the amount of fish oil under suspicion for containing the residue,” it said.
Board director Jens Borup added: “We are very sorry that we have disappointed our customers. We will now do our utmost to make sure that the regain the trust in us.”
That aim may be somewhat compromised by the fact the International Fishmeal and Fish Oil Organisation (IFFO) has suspended its ‘IFFO standard for Responsible Supply of fishmeal and fish oil’ certification of Skagen’s facility.
IFFO ponders action
Director general Andrew Mallison told us Skagen should be commended for facing up to the fraud, but said his 200-member strong group may hold an extraordinary meeting that could result in Skagen being evicted from IFFO.
“I have never encountered this kind of case but it is important to note that while these residues are not permitted to be used in the way Skagen has used them they are not harmful to human health,” Mallison said.
Under European Union law those type of residues that typically contain ethyl esters, urea and alcohol are only permitted for ‘technical uses’ like bio-fuels, paints or leather treatments.
The adulteration was detected by the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration (DVFA) which said it was continuing to investigate the situation.
A page on the Skagen website states: “FF Skagen's large modern processing plant is located directly at the quayside on Skagen wharf – always ready to receive fresh fish from more than 50 Danish and foreign suppliers and the filleting industry. All catches are analyzed and approved before the raw material ends up in the insulated raw material tanks.”
“The entire process is subject to strict quality control procedures according to ISO 9001:2008, ISO 14001:2004 and HACCP.”
Broberg said he had no comment on the matter when we contacted him today.
Skagen earned about €3.33m in before tax profits in 2012.
Adam Ismail, the executive director of international omega-3 trade group GOED (Global Organisation for EPA and DHA Omega-3s) said he had not heard of Skagen or the kind of adulteration it had engaged in.
“The only reason I can think of that you would mix an oil from human consumption in is that you were getting a waste stream from oil refining for a very low price because normally refined oils for human consumption are much more costly than animal feed oils,” Ismail said.
“The fact that it had an alcohol in it may also indicate that it was a waste product.”