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Fish Oil Chock-Full of PCBs

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A lawsuit filed in California today accuses eight major brands of knowingly selling fish oil supplements laden with PCBs.

fish oil

Ronda Kaysen: Some Omega-3 dietary supplements made out of fish, shark, fish liver and shark liver oil have illegally undisclosed and unnecessarily high levels of contamination with polychlorinated biphenyl compounds or PCBs, according to lawyers for the plaintiffs. The lawsuit name major supplement brands, including: CVS, GNC, Omega Protein, Nature Made, Rite Aid, Solgar and TwinLab.

"Consumers who want the health benefits of fish oil shouldn't also have to take the health risks of an extremely toxic man-made chemical," David Roe, one of the attorneys for the plaintiffs, said in a statement. "And they don't have to, since preliminary test results show that some fish oil brands have only 1/70th as much PCB contamination in them as others."

The lawsuit calls for the brands to disclose the risk on their packaging.

"The industry knows very well about the PCB problem in fish oils and widely markets its supplements as already treated for PCB contamination," Benson Chiles, a plaintiff in the case, said in a statement. "They have no excuse for what we've been finding."

This news is truly disturbing. Doctors advise us to give our kids fish oil because Omega-3s are beneficial to our health. As consumers, we assume, at least to a certain extent, that the companies selling us these supplements are not intentionally giving us something laden with a known carcinogen. The suit gives me pause about all the supplements lining the supermarket shelves. It makes me wonder what else is lurking in the vitamins I feed my child.




next: Chelsea King's Parents Speak Out
20 comments so far | Post a comment now
anjasmomma March 2, 2010, 8:05 PM

I subscribe to consumerlab.com because they are an independent company that tests the vitamins on the market to ensure quality. I trust their recommendations.

Sebastapol March 2, 2010, 10:31 PM


Just heard about this story on the news, been watching the reactions…

I would consider whether or not some lawyers are just looking to sue over what amounts to a legal technicality.

When the amount of PCBs we’re talking about is measured in nanograms (ie billionths of a gram), it’s absurd to say that fish oil capsules are “chock full of PCBs”. Even a capsule with 70 times more PCBs than the lesser “offender” is still measured in the hundreds of nanograms. 70 times an infinitesimal amount is still an infinitesimal amount.


Angel March 3, 2010, 3:51 AM

My oldest son is bipolar and I give him fish oil supplements. But I am one of those stickler mama’s who refuses to buy mass produced vitamins and only buy from Naturopathic stores with defined manufacturing guidelines. Like did you know that most multivitamins are not even absorbedin the body mainly because they are encased with an undigestable product.

Aaron March 3, 2010, 4:03 AM

This shouldn’t come as a surprise considering the warnings not to eat too much tuna, etc…

But, there are a bunch of companies who realize that fatty fish are a perfect receptacle for the chemicals we dump in the ocean.

As a result, the choose to catch fish lower on the food chain and then they process the oil to remove impurities.

These companies also submit to 3rd party testing to prove to the general public that they are doing what they say they are doing

Companies like Ascenta and Nordic naturals

For more info

http://www.healthhabits.ca/2008/05/29/pregnant-mothers-intake-of-omega-3-key-to-babies-big-brains/

mollysmom March 3, 2010, 6:42 AM

they can tell me this all day and i won’t believe it. what i do believe is when i had my physical last year my triglycerides were off the chart, now a year later of taking fish oil supplements my triglycerides are normal. i truly believe in fish oil but that’s just my opinion.

TJ March 3, 2010, 7:06 AM

The basis of this lawsuit is that ANY quantity of PCB’s in fish oil are carcinogenic, so therefore ALL fish oils and cod liver oils will be susceptible to legal ramifications. The problems with PROP 65 is that it’s a money maker for greedy CA attorneys who ignore that PCBs are ubiquitous and are found in EVERYTHING we eat or drink at levels above zero. Dairy products have just as much PCBs as these cod liver oil products do.

steven J scannell March 3, 2010, 6:06 PM


In the past mother whales have picked up lots of pcp’s then the milk concentrated it in the baby. Dead infant whales had to be handled as hazardous waste in the past. PCP’s don’t go away, they concentrate, and move insidiously up the food chain. Menhaden forage on algae inshore, which can have pcp’s, the deep water fish are better for fish oil I think. steve@environmentalfisherman.com

Bobbi March 10, 2010, 1:40 PM

I think you need to do a little more research before you critize fish oil supplements again. This is the reason people make rash decisions, one persons uneducated opinion. Quality fish oil supplements are beneficial to many people

Lindsey March 15, 2010, 3:13 PM

That’s why I get my omega-3 supplement from flax seed oil caplets instead.

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TomPier May 3, 2010, 10:38 PM

great post as usual!

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Quick weight loss tips My personal earliest boy is actually the illness and that i provide him omega-3 fatty acids dietary supplements. However I’m one of individuals stickler mama’s that declines to purchase bulk created nutritional vitamins in support of purchase through Natural shops along with outlined production recommendations. Such as do you realize that many multi-vitamins aren’t actually absorbedin the actual physique primarily simply because they’re enveloped by having an undigestable item.

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I believe you should do a bit more research before you critize omega-3 fatty acids dietary NuBrilliance supplements once more. This is the cause people make rash choices, 1 persons uneducated opinion. Quality omega-3 fatty acids dietary supplements are beneficial to many individuals

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Dr.H.Davis April 28, 2011, 5:00 PM

PCBS are in everyting you can imagine,but the lawyers and their uneducated non expert plantiffs know they can’t take down milk and other big name food stuffs so they go after ‘supplements’ like fish oil where there is very strct testing.They talk about lead and arsenic.Try baking soda even USP,etc.,and it has lead and arsenic naturally,but they can’t go after such a famous well used staple as that!
The poster above is right.Most lawyers are not interested in health-I know this- just ‘healthy’ profits.So do their law suit $$$ hungry plantiffs.They are like sharks seeking food (we better warn the sharks about PCBs!!!)and this is another way they have found to enrich themselves.Scum.


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