Fish Oil purity is perhaps one of the most important factors in choosing Omega 3 supplements.

If you’re seriously interested in improving your health one of the best things you can do, along with increasing your exercise levels and eating a better diet generally, is to start taking Omega 3 supplements.

We won’t go into all the health benefits of Omega 3 supplementation because we talk about these benefits elsewhere on our website. Today we want to look at the purity of fish oil found in Omega 3 supplements. It’s sad to say but it’s an essential issue to consider when buying fish oil supplements.

Fish are generally contaminated with toxins, in particular mercury, PCBs, dioxins and chlordane. These are chemicals that come from people, they are not naturally found in the ocean, but we put them there due to our activities. Fish accumulate these toxins in their flesh and when we eat the fish we accumulate them too.

These impurities are only present in small amounts, but over time, if you eat a lot of fish, they can build up. That’s why the FDA  has issued warnings about eating too much fish, especially top of the food chain fish.

And if fish oil is used for Omega 3 supplements, as it is, then these toxins can end up in your supplements. Again, very small amounts, but if you take them every day??

There have been instances of fish oil supplements withdrawn for issues of Omega 3 purity, or lack thereof.

So not unreasonably one of the things you need to be concerned with is you’re starting your Omega 3 journey is fish oil purity and mercury levels and levels of other toxins in your supplements. Omega 3 purity is something you must consider seriously.

For these reasons standards have been developed to assess fish oil purity levels. The first was one developed at the University of Guelph in Canada. These are called the International  Fish Oil Standards (IFOS). Along with the international Fish Oil Standard there is others as well.

There are now 4 recognized international standards for fish oil, and we reproduce a table below showing the different levels of contamination which is accepted by the different standards. The other 3 are the from the Council For Responsible Nutrition (CFRN), the European Pharmacopoeia and the Norwegian Medicinal Standard.

None of these are binding on companies producing fish oil supplements, each company can choose to comply or not. And of course the Omega 3 manufacturers can also choose which fish oil standards to comply with if any, as the levels vary for acceptable purity.

Here’s the different standards set out in a table. Note that we include the standards that are set by Xtend Life, who make what we consider is by far the best fish oil capsules on the market. They believe that the current standards are are a little too generous, and prefer to observe their own, stricter, standards.

Toxin Xtend Life International Fish Oil Standards Council For Responsible Nutrition European
Arsenic (ppb) 50 100 100 100 100
Cadmium (ppb) 10 100 100 100 100
Mercury (ppb) 10 100 100 100 100
Lead (ppb) 50 100 100 100 100
Total PCBs (ppt) 5 45 90 N/A N/A
Total Dioxins &
Furans (ppt)
0.5 1 2 2 2

>> N/A means ‘Not Available’
>> ppb means part per billion and ppt means parts per trillion
>> IFOS although included in the table is not a recognized entity. It is a private organization and it is claimed by some ‘observers’ that it was established for the benefit of a few marketers of fish oil.

You can clearly see that the levels of purity that are set by Xtend Life for it’s own supplements are dramatically stricter than the others.

In particular they specify a level for mercury that is 10 times lower than the other “official” standards for fish oil purity. You can also see that their purity levels are much lower for other contaminants too.

Now of course it’s tempting to think that maybe they tell us they maintain those levels of Omega 3 purity, but in reality they don’t really. How do we really KNOW that they are.

Here’s how you know. They do something that is quite unusual, maybe even unique, in the industry. They have every batch if fish oil they use independently tested, by two separate independent labs, not their own lab.

Then they publish the result, in what is called a Certificate Of Analysis (COA) on their website. Here’s a copy of their COA showing no detectable contaminants at all. (Below)

Try finding a COA for other brands of fish oil supplements, and try finding out who tests their fish oils.

Fish Oil Purity
Omega 3 Purity

What more can we say.

So remember, fish oil purity is really quite a serious matter. When choosing fish oil supplements you’ve got to go way beyond price to do a serious comparison.

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