HK consumer watchdog says go easy on fish oil supplement

Many people, who may not like fish but believe in the health benefits of fish oil, may have found it more convenient to just take supplements.

But a report from Hong Kong’s Consumer Council should make them take a long, careful look at their preferred fish oil supplement.

Oscar Liu, reporting for Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post (SCMP), said the  council found cancer-causing substances in several of the supplements sold in the Chinese Special  Administrative Region.

Liu said the consumer watchdog tested 25 samples and found “contaminants in more than 20 fish oil supplements, with cancer-causing substances detected in over half of the tested samples”.

According to the SCMP story that came out late last year, Nora Tam Fung-yee, chair of the council’s research and testing committee, also said, “Some samples had higher contents of bad fatty acids and contaminants that exceeded the limit, not only going against the consumer’s wish for better health, but also increasing the health risks of long-term consumption.”

The fatty acids could increase the amount of bad cholesterol in the blood.

Fish oil products are popular health supplements because they are supposed to have high concentrations of omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to help prevent heart disease and stroke and offer protection against several other major diseases.

Liu said the watchdog reported detecting glycidol, a carcinogen, in 14 of the samples tested. Up to 24 were found with the contaminant 3-MCPD, out of which three had levels that surpassed the 2,500mcg/kg limit set by the European Union (EU).

Liu added, “The city’s watchdog said Adrien Gagnon’s Omega 3 Highly Concentrated Fish Oil had the highest level of 3-MCPD with 15,000mcg/kg, followed by GNC’s Live Well Fish Body Oil with 6,800mcg/kg and Miracle Life’s Supreme Fish, which contained 2,800mcg/kg.

“Glycidol exceeding the EU’s limit of 1,000mcg/kg for fish oil was also detected in the Miracle Life product, as well as antioxidant butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) at an amount that went beyond the limit under Hong Kong regulations.”

Liu also reported that the council found Benzopyrene, a carcinogen, in Nutronic Pregnancy Omega 3, a product for pregnant women, at an amount that was five times higher than the EU limit for the substance. The sample also contained 54mcg/kg of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) at a level that exceeded the EU’s limit of 10mcg/kg.

Tam said the Center for Food Safety had ordered the manufacturer to stop selling the product.

She pointed out that the health of the unborn  child  could be adversely affected. through the mother’s blood to the placenta. 

The watchdog, according to Liu,  said it had sent its findings to Hong Kong’s Center for Food Safety for follow-up action. All but two samples tested by the council were softgel capsules.

The distributor of GNC, a health and nutrition company, said its fish oil supplements mentioned in the council’s report were safe to consume, the SCMP story said. The distributor added it would submit information to the council that supported its health claims. The company’s Adrien Gagnon said they would provide the watchdog details backing its products.

The SCMP story added, “Lakon International Limited, Miracle Life’s distributor, said its products were manufactured in a Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) certified factory in Australia.”

A spokesman for Nutronic said it had sent the tested product, as well as its similar goods, to an independent laboratory for further testing.

In the SCMP story, Tam reminded consumers that omega-3 fatty acids could be absorbed through a regular diet by eating seafood. “Omega-3 fatty acids can be found in a lot of foods, particularly fish. So you have to think twice about whether you really need to take these supplements,” she said.

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