3 Ways to Tell!
See Part 1 here.
So what’s in your fish oil?
Is it made with Chinese fish oil?
And why does the bottle not say ‘Made in China’ if the fish oil pills were made in China?
It’s easy for supplement companies to find loopholes in labeling rules. And most do. In all my years in the dietary supplement industry, I have never heard of any supplement company getting in trouble for country-of-origin issues.
80 year old regulations
The laws governing country-of-origin declaration is 80 years old. It was put in place when Herbert Hoover was in the White House and when China was a poor farming society.
Things have changed.
Regardless, the law says where ever the products underwent ‘substantial transformation’ is the country of origin.
That’s a loophole big enough to drive a Hummer through.
Theoretically, if the pills inside the bottle cost $2, and the packaging costs $3, then wherever the bottle was packaged is where there was a ‘substantial transformation’ in value.
Chinese-made pills that are bottled and sniffed for quality in America = MADE IN AMERICA.
Interestingly, US Customs and Border Protection, not the FDA, is responsible for country-of-origin oversight. (Note to Feds: please don’t come a knockin’ – my cleaning lady is a US Citizen, I swear!)
A LOT of the fish oil pills sold in American drug stores, grocery stores and department stores are Chinese.
It’s very hard to say exactly what percent of the American fish oil supply is Chinese, but my guess is about a quarter to a third.
In a brilliant piece by Kansas City Star news paper (November 7, 2010. Industry groups consider pushing for country-of-origin labels on fish oil bottles, where I’m quoted), investigative reporter Steve Everly dug up all import records of fish oil capsules and found that about 20% of American fish oil products came from China.
And none of it was labeled as being from China.
At a recent industry trade show, a Chinese fish oil vendor tried to convince me to convert OmegaVia to their oil. Shockingly, he volunteered that two concentrated fish oil brands that I’ve frequently recommended to customers use their oil! Say it aint so!
What about mixing-n-matching?
There is ABSOLUTELY NOTHING stopping a manufacturer from blending high-quality Canadian or Norwegian oil with barely-passing Chinese oil to ‘bump up the specs’ of the finished product.
It happens every day.
And it works like a charm.
Mix a few drums of expensive Norwegian oil with a lot of Chinese stuff…and you still get to market the product as ‘Made with Norwegian Fish Oil.’
Chinese oils could be 30% cheaper.
Fish Oil and Big-box Retailers
There are products sold at big retailers that could have Canadian oil in one lot and Chinese oil in another. As long as the ‘label claims’ (amount of EPA and DHA) and contaminant levels pass, everything is approved and shipped out.
In this case, it is not done to improve profits – when a retailer sells 10 million fish oil capsules every week, the manufacturer that supplies the retailer cannot be picky about where the oil comes from. It is a logistical nightmare to keep a large retailer stocked and supplied with such large volumes of fish oil, so some manufacturers buy oil or finished pills from anywhere they can.
If you buy a brand of fish oil at a very large retailer and decide to call the customer service number to figure out the country of origin of the oil, you will likely waste your time. It is unlikely that the customer service rep will know this information or be able to retrieve it easily.
3 ways to tell if your fish oil may be from China
Chinese ingredients are cheap. Sometimes they are of very high quality and other times, well, you’ve heard about the recalls.
Using Chinese oil reduces cost. And increases profit.
That’s irresistible to any corporation that has shareholders to please.
So far, there’s been little or no harm done.
No major fish oil recalls.
No mercury poisoning.
No complaints of oxidized oil.
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.