Fish oil makers drugstores sued over supplements

March 4, 2010

According to Reuters, a group including a California nonprofit organization is suing fish oil manufacturers and pharmacies that sell the popular supplements over their purported toxicity. The lawsuit, filed March 2 in San Francisco Supreme Court, claims that the makers and sellers of certain supplements found to contain high levels of PCB compounds—man-made industrial chemicals—have failed to alert consumers as required under California’s right-to-know law.

The Mateel Environmental Justice Foundation, one of three named plaintiffs, tested 10 fish oil supplements out of more than 100 on the market. The other plaintiffs in the case are New Jersey residents.

Defendants include the world’s largest producer of omega-3 fish oil, Houston, Texas-based Omega Protein, as well as drug stores Rite Aid Corp and CVS Caremark Corp.

“The people buying these fish oil supplements are not being told the PCBs are there,” said plaintiff’s Attorney David Roe.

People consume fish oil supplements for the health benefits obtained from omega-3 fatty acids, but there are currently no standards for PCB contamination in the United States, according to Roe.

Also named as defendants are General Nutrition Corp, a subsidiary of GNC Acquisition Holdings Corp, Now Health Group Inc, Pharmavite LLC, the maker of the NatureMade brand of supplements, Solgar Inc., and TwinLab Corp.

In response to the lawsuit, the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN) released a release stating that there are no safety issues with fish oil. “Fish oil supplements are among the safest, most beneficial health products on the market, said Andrew Shao, Senior Vice President, Scientific and Regulatory Affairs, CRN. “CRN believes the suit was filed in California in order to take advantage of a state law, Prop 65, which has conservative standards that are not law in the rest of the nation … Though the lawyers suggest that the levels of PCBs found in these products far exceed what is acceptable by Prop 65 standards, the actual levels of PCBs found in the majority of these products do not appear to exceed the Prop 65 limit (90 ng/day). Furthermore, they fail to mention that the Food and Drug Administration’s tolerance level for PCBs in fish (2,000 parts per billion) far exceeds the levels of PCBs found in fish oil.”

One of the defendants, Twinlab Corp., has released a statement affirming that its Norwegian Cod Liver Oil and Emulsified Norwegian Cod Liver Oil meet stringent standards established by governmental and neutral, non-governmental authorities.

“Twinlab’s fish oil products are all molecularly distilled and quality tested for purity,” said Twinlab’s Chief Science Officer, Greg Grochoski. “These processes are especially effective for reducing impurities such as PCB’s found in oceans, lakes, rivers, and streams and common to fish and fish-based products.”

Reuters article

CRN press release