I have been taking Trader Joe's fish oil (the regular not the odorless one) for years but recently have become concerned about the quality of it. There is so much talk about contamination (and rancidity) with fish oils so I decided to look into it. I contacted Trader Joe's and this is the response I got. The lady on the phone said they can't provide a certificate of analysis because Trader Joe's is a privately owned company. Then a few days later I got this email:
"Thank you for contacting us! All fish oil for dietary supplements are refined to a lesser or greater degree. Refining requires bleaching clays, heat under vacuum, winterization and deodorization (molecular distillation). We cannot classify any of these processes as natural or gentle, however they are necessary in order to produce a pure and safe product for human consumption.
Molecular distillation is the only method (currently) that can remove metals, pcbs and other toxins to below detectable levels for human consumption. Most processing keeps the oils at up to 250 degrees C for up to 6 hours under vacuum. We use a molecular distillation process that takes only 45 seconds at 250 degrees C under high vacuum. This shortening of the "sit" or "residence" time for the process greatly improves the quality because it guarantees that no trans fats are created. Other molecular distillation processes and steam distillation have the potential to create trans fats because of the length of time the oil sits at high temperature.
Molecular distillation is also used to concentrate and increase the levels of EPA and DHA well above the standard 18% EPA and 12% DHA. Molecular distillation must occur before concentration begins! If the fish oil is concentrated prior to distillation it will also concentrate the PCBS's, metals and other toxins significantly increasing their levels. Therefore it is essential that fish oil be molecularly distilled prior to concentration.
Please note: The fish oils processed with this technology have very low levels of impurities between, below 0.005ppm are very safe for human consumption and are below California's Proposition 65 requirements. It is virtually impossible to remove 100% of all impurities but we can get them to below detectable levels.
Very low levels of PCB's and Heavy metals, PV (peroxide value) and Anisidines are the indicators that tell about the purity and quality of fish oils. High quality oils will have PV's from 1-3.5meq/kg and Anisidines of 13.5meq/kg or lower. Anisidines are just one aspect of the oxidative indications and are not as significant as PV. Anisidines of between 18 or below are also acceptable.
Please be aware that there are fish oil suppliers and dietary supplement companies who use labs that provide less costly and less detailed certificates of analysis.
Results from every independent lab assay we have requested and received are well below the State of California 0.09 PPM Prop. 65 limit.
Our fish oil suppliers provide assays with compliant PCB results for every batch that are well below the FDA regulatory limit and Prop 65 guideline.
Trader Joe' s
So then I googled for a bit and found out most of the email was cut and pasted from this site:
This made me feel duped. I thought I was getting a personalized and detailed response.
I am not an expert on understanding the contamination and oxidation issues with fish oil but I did look at the Nordic Naturals site which posts the lab results for their products.
I didn't really know how to compare that information with the 0.09 PPM Prop 65 limit because I don't know the levels of each contaminant like is listed on the Nordic Naturals site.
I have heard that if the oil tastes fishy that it is rancid. The Trader Joe's regular fish oil has a horribly fishy taste and smell. The Nordic Naturals doesn't.
However, the Odorless Trader Joe's fish oil does not have the fishy smell. I am not sure if this is from the treatment to remove the odor or from the added antioxidants, like rosemary extract, which help prevent oxidation. TJ's regular fish oil only has mixed tocopherols, while the odorless also has rosemary extract and ascorbyl palminate (vitamin C.)
Perhaps the Nordic Naturals is also deodorized?
Anyway, the taste testing doesn't indicate the levels of PCB's, heavy metals, and other contaminants.
I wish Trader Joe's would release this information because their fish oil is more affordable than the Nordic Naturals.