Contaminated Fish Oil Brands

Posted on

Fish oil supplements are in the news again, as the January 2012 issue of Consumer Reports tested 15 fish oil brands and rated whether they met quality standards vis-a-vis contaminants.

Why take Fish Oil? My doctor ‘prescribed’ them because of my high triglycerides. (She also suggested I cut down to no more than 1 glass of wine per day, but….) According to The Mayo Clinic, fish oil provides these benefits:

“There is evidence… that DHA and EPA in the form of dietary fish or fish oil supplements lowers triglycerides, reduces the risk of death, heart attack, dangerous abnormal heart rhythms, and strokes in people with known cardiovascular disease, slows the buildup of atherosclerotic plaques (“hardening of the arteries”), and lowers blood pressure slightly.”

You can read more on the Mayo Clinic site – and you might want to check out this Consumer Reports article, Is fish oil right for you?  The Mayo Clinic also recommended that diabetics should only take fish oil if they’ve discussed it with their doctor first.

Photo: Consumer Reports

OK, so you’ve talked to your doctor and you want to start taking fish oil pills. Now what? Just go to the store, right?


Because the market for supplements (fish oil and others) is unregulated … and fish oil pills have been found to contain contaminants.

Mercury.  PCBs.  Other stuff you don’t want to ingest.


This is not a new issue (see my Heavens To Mercury post for more info, including the Environmental Defense Fund’s list of best/worst choice for Fish Oil brands. On the ‘worst choice’ of this list were RiteAid, Solaray, and KMart brands).

But what is new is that Consumer Reports recently conducted their own testing. In their labs. Nice and objective. Love that.

Turns out, you might want to avoid some big, well-known brand names of fish oil including CVS, Sundown, Nature’s Bounty, and GNC – as these brands had PCBs. (I was horrified that my husband had been taking Sundown so tossed that right out). You also might want to avoid Costco’s Kirkland brand which had an enteric coating issue.

Another heavy hitter, Nordic Naturals – which is sold in high end health/organic stores – was also on Consumer Reports list.  For spoilage, not PCBs. But Nordic’s already fought back and CR has issued a ‘correction.’ In mid-December, a correction to a January article. Gotta love the web.

But I digress. Back to Nordic Naturals. To me, this correction is irrelevant because Nordic Naturals is even more expensive than the Metagenics brand my doctor’s office sells. (Which she specifically ‘prescribed’ for me because I eat too much tuna so she wants to be 100% sure I don’t get any mercury-laced fish oil pills.) Since Metagenics is outside-lab tested and proven to be free of contaminants and Nordic Naturals is NOT, and they’re roughly the same price, I don’t see why anyone would buy Nordic Naturals brand.

But that’s just me. So given all this, what brand should you choose? IMHO, any of the 9 brands on the Consumer Reports list – or Metagenics.

Having tossed my husband’s fish oil pills last week, I just bought a giant jar of Nature Made 1,200 mg from WalMart as that was on the CR ‘met quality standards’ list. (Though my husband does not have high cholesterol so I need to ask why he’s even taking these?!)

As for me, I’ll either stick with the Metagenics my doctor ‘prescribed’ or try the Nature Made brand.

And hope they lower my triglycerides so my daily glass or 2 of wine stays my daily glass – or 2 – of wine!




2 thoughts on “Contaminated Fish Oil Brands

  1. I use the brand Pure Encapsulations, which I can only get through my doctor’s office. He told me to keep the bottle in the refrigerator. I take one a day (1,000 mg) but I’m not sure that’s enough. I noticed that Consumer Reports only ranked brands you can buy in the store.

  2. what kinds of fish are sourced for Wal-Mart’s spring valley 1000 mg softgel dietary suppements with 300 mg Omega -3 from Peru
    Thank you
    Im particularly interested in determining if the fish used are kosher (meaning fish with fins and scales (no sharks or other sources)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *