Fish oil around the world
Over the past decade or so, fish oil production has been steadily decreasing across the world but at the same time, the demand for fish oil has been increasing. Fish oil is required for both animal feed and for human consumption. Currently, around one million tonnes of fish oil is produced annually. The main producers of fish oil are Peru, Chile, the USA, Japan, and Scandinavian countries, however, Peru is by far the world leader and contributes around a third of all fish oil stocks globally.
The biggest exporters of fish oil are Peru, Chile, Iceland, Denmark and Norway and the two countries importing most of the Peruvian fish oil are Denmark and Belgium who between them take around 50%.
Type of fish used for fish oil
Although fish oil can be produced from fish caught in any sea, anywhere in the world, fish oils that are produced from the coastal waters around South America are particularly in high demand as they are relatively low in toxins compared to fish caught elsewhere.
The fish containing the most toxins, like mercury, dioxins and PCBs, are the larger predatory fish that have longer life spans, for example Shark, Swordfish and Tuna. These fish eat smaller fish, which then eat smaller fish, and so on, and as they have quite long lives the level of pollutants in their bodies’ increases cumulatively so that over time the amount of toxins concentrated in these types of larger fish can be extremely high.
The type of fish is also important for the production of fish oil destined for the supplement market because Omega 3 nutrients are only really concentrated in cold water fatty fish and not in white fish. Ideally for fish oil production the fish should be smaller, with a shorter lifespan. This is partly so that the fish can reproduce faster and stocks can replenish quite quickly and also because there is less build up of toxins. So for example, anchovies, sardines, and horse mackerel are popular fish for fish oil.
Although there is a large amount of Omega 3 nutrients in Shark and Tuna, these are also eaten as foods so fish oil made from these types of fish tends to be produced from the left over parts of the fish that aren’t destined for the human food market, for example off-cuts, the intestines and the eyes.
So to sum it up, the ideal fish for fish oil production destined for the health food supplement market are smaller whole fatty fish that can reproduce quickly and which live in relatively unpolluted colder waters. This is perhaps why the Peruvian anchovy industry is such a successful and major producer of this kind of fish oil.
Demand for Fish Oil
The demand for fish oil has been steadily growing over recent years and this is unlikely to stop in the years to come. Demand for fish oil for human consumption is on the increase and that is not showing any signs of slowing down and understandably so.
It is now well accepted that Western diets are deficient in important Omega 3 fatty acids such as Eicosapentaenoic acid and Docosahexaenoic acid. There is also a growing awareness of the health benefits to be gained from these Omega 3 fatty acids, such as a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, mental health problems and inflammatory conditions like arthritis, but the list of potential health benefits is growing all the time. This has resulted in an ever increasing demand for fish oil capsules that are highly concentrated in these Omega 3 fatty acids.
Coupled with that is the knowledge that eating too much fish isn’t a viable option for getting enough Omega 3 nutrients in the diet due to the amount of pollution in the oceans because of course these pollutants are also in the fish. Governments and health professionals are aware of the double edged sword here and recommend that people still eat fish but limit the amount to two portions a week.
As the demand is increasing and at a time that world production of fish oil decreasing, this means that the price of fish oil is likely to rise and will no doubt continue to rise in the future as competition for supplies increases. On saying that though, according to Globefish, fish oil prices are expected to remain stable during the first three months of 2014 but after that though, no one seems to be sure and everything could change.
Types of Fish Oil
When fish oil first appeared on the market all those years ago, it was in a much cruder form than it is now. Think of the foul tasting Cod Liver Oil that your grandparents had. Cod Liver Oil is produced from the liver of the fish and this is where the Omega 3 fatty acids are concentrated. However, also stored in the liver are all the pollutants as well as high levels of Vitamin A. Too much of this fat soluble vitamin can be toxic to humans and pregnant women are advised to avoid this type of fish oil altogether. In fatty fish, Omega 3 fatty acids are stored in the darker meat of the fish and not just in the liver and the fish oil produced from this type of fish doesn’t contain excessive amounts of vitamin A.
Since those early days of crude Cod Liver Oil and then the discovery by Danish Scientists back in the 80’s about the protective benefits of Omega 3 fatty acids, countless studies have been carried out showing just how beneficial fish oil can be for health. This awareness resulted in fish oil becoming the new ‘must have’ for health and fish oils started appearing in supermarkets everywhere. These ‘standard’ type fish oils contain around percent 30% actual active ingredients compared to our Pure EPA which is 93%
How is fish oil produced?
When producing fish oil, especially concentrated fish oil, the oil and all the other ingredients need to be separated out into their individual parts so that some parts can be removed and others retained. There are several ways of doing this, each with their own advantages and disadvantages. The dilemma facing the fish oil producer is how they can do this as efficiently and as cost effectively as possible without damaging the oil.
There are basically two main methods of sophisticated fish oil production and the first is Supercritical Fluid Extraction (SFE) along with Supercritical Fluid Chromatography (SFC), and the second is Molecular Distillation (MD). Regardless of which processing method used, the fish have to go through a process of cooking and pressing to clean and extract the oil before any refining and further processing can take place.
In this method the fish oil is put into a vacuum and heated to temperatures of between 140 and 160 degrees centigrade. At this temperature the free fatty acids evaporate and what is left is oil that is concentrated to contain about 55% omega 3 fatty acids. This type of oil is now readily available on the market as fish oil today along with the cheaper 30% Omega 3 Oil.
How it works is that based on molecular weight, the various components can be separated. So because EPA, DHA and all the undesirable toxins have different molecular weights, they can be identified and separated out.
However, there are some disadvantages to using this method. Really high concentrations of Omega 3 fatty acids aren’t really possible as it would involve reheating and reheating the oil over and over again to obtain only slighter higher concentrations and this isn’t desirable.
Supercritical CO2 Extraction Technique
( This safe effective method is how our Pure EPA is made)
Carbon Dioxide is stable and is normally used in both Supercritical Fluid Extraction and Supercritical Fluid Chromatography. Supercritical Carbon Dioxide is Carbon Dioxide in a fluid state above its critical temperature and critical pressure. When temperature and pressure are increased beyond the standard temperature and pressure for Carbon Dioxide to a point above the critical temperature and pressure for Carbon Dioxide, the carbon starts to behave differently in that it expands in the way a gas does but still has the density similar to a liquid.
We need to explain what a supercritical fluid actually is though. It can be described as any substance that is above its critical point in terms of pressure and temperature. It is not strictly a normal state liquid, and is not solid and it is not a gas but a “fluid” that is neither solid or gas but is in between both these states.
This process is carried out on oil that has previously been subjected to molecular or flash distillation. This method uses much lower temperatures in the region of 40 to 50 Degrees centigrade in order to extract and concentrate the fish oil. No organic solvents are used in this process. It is an excellent technology for concentrated Omega 3 fish oil as concentrations of up to 99% is possible.
The extraction can be rapid and selective and simply by lowering the pressure and controlling the density, any extracted material can be recovered.
Advantages of CO2 Extraction
Lower temperatures are possible which preserves the integrity of the oil
- It is safe as it is non inflammable and non toxic and it doesn’t use any solvents
- The separation of substances within the oil is particularly easy
- There is very little waste with this type of production method
- There is minimal impact on the environment with this production method
Pure EPA Essential Oil Blend
(Box of 60 capsules)
*Pure EPA is a powerful pharmaceutical grade omega 3 fish oil
*A unique product containing the purest form of ethyl EPA fish oil in the UK
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Essential oil Pure EPA is available exclusively from mind 1st. Mind1st Information Line: 01772 877925