Fish Oil Manufacturing Process
What type of fish does Nordic Naturals use in its products?
Since our founding, Nordic Naturals has always been committed to sourcing only fish species that are flourishing and only from waters that are not threatened by overfishing. Nordic Naturals cod liver oil products are made from 100% wild Arctic cod (Skrei) that are sustainably sourced from the Norwegian Sea. All other Nordic Naturals products are made from wild, sustainably sourced sardines and anchovies from the South Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. For more detailed information about our fishing practices and the regulations of the Norwegian Government fisheries management system, please visit our Why Omega-3s page.
How long does it take Nordic Naturals products to get from fish to soft gel or bottle?
A primary goal for Nordic Naturals is to optimize freshness levels in our fish oils. We strive to minimize the time from catch to processing, and ideally the fish is processed within hours of being caught. During processing, we consistently monitor freshness levels of the raw material using acidity levels (an accurate measure of freshness). Even though standard acidity allowance is 3.0, Nordic Naturals does not allow more than 1.0. While complete processing may take days, our raw material is protected in a nitrogen environment at every stage of manufacturing to maintain optimal freshness in the final product.
How is mercury (and other toxins) removed from the fish oil?
Molecular distillation removes impurities (heavy metals, dioxins, etc.), saturated fats, and other undesirable organic compounds. Molecular distillation is gentle with exceptionally low heat residence time and is performed in a vacuum to further reduce heat requirement. All time and temperature specifications are proprietary, but we can assure you that no trans fats are created during any of our distillation processes. Any potential impurities and saturated fats are distilled out of the oil, leaving only the key beneficial components of the fish oil. Flash distillation accomplishes the same thing as molecular distillation, but utilizes steam rather than a vacuum. The process used depends on the intended concentration of the fish oil. Molecular distillation is used for all of our fish oil products. Flash distillation is used for our non-concentrated fish oils. Independent lab results consistently show that these processing techniques deliver oils of exceptional quality and freshness. Certificates of Analysis are available on our website; simply enter your lot number to view the certificate for your specific bottle.
Does Nordic Naturals manufacturing process damage the fish oil or remove beneficial compounds? Does it use high heat?
Molecular distillation (used for all of our fish oil products) removes environmental toxins like mercury and other heavy metals, dioxins, etc., saturated fats, and other undesirable organic compounds, leaving behind only the key beneficial components of the fish oil. It is a gentle distillation process with exceptionally low heat residence time, and is performed in a vacuum to further reduce the heat requirement. Flash distillation (used for our non-concentrated fish oils) accomplishes the same thing as molecular distillation, but utilizes steam rather than a vacuum.
All fish oil‚ regardless of the kind of manufacturing process used‚ needs to be processed in order to remove contaminants and pass minimum laws and standards (such as California’s Proposition 65). This process always requires the use of heat. However, heat itself does not cause oxidative damage to the fish oil‚ it can only affect the rate of oxidation. Without the presence of free radicals or oxygen, there is no oxidation to speed up. This is also why nitrogen-flushed fish oils can handle being shipped, delivered, and stored in even the hottest climates and still taste great.
Third-party testing for TOTOX values will reliably show the total oxidation to which the oil has been exposed, and will thereby reliably assess the quality of any processing technique. (For more information on TOTOX values, see below.) Perhaps even more important is the absence of a fishy taste. It has been verified that the most significant and sensitive pieces of equipment that measure oxidation in oils are still not nearly as sensitive as the human palate [From the AOCS meeting 2007]. The aldehyde byproducts of oxidative damage to fish oils have a high vapor pressure (thus the fish burp) and the distinctly disagreeable taste and smell of rancid fish.
What is the difference between molecular distillation and CO2 processing?
Molecular distillation removes impurities (heavy metals, dioxins, etc), saturated fats, and other undesirable organic compounds, leaving behind only the key beneficial components of the fish oil. It is a gentle distillation process with exceptionally low heat residence time, and is performed in a vacuum to further reduce the heat requirement. Flash distillation accomplishes the same thing as molecular distillation, but utilizes steam rather than a vacuum.
CO2 extraction or fractionation starts with oil that has previously undergone either molecular distillation or flash distillation to remove impurities. It uses a combination of pressure and heat to concentrate the amount of omega-3s (EPA and/or DHA) in the oil, extracting the ethyl esters from the fish oil in order to increase their concentration.
Nordic Naturals does not use CO2 extraction because it has not been shown to provide a superior quality product. Independent lab results consistently show that our processing techniques deliver oils of exceptional quality and freshness. Certificates of Analysis are available on our website; simply enter your lot number to view the certificate for your specific bottle.
What is the difference between molecular distillation and cold-pressed fish oil?
Please see questions above for information about molecular distillation. All fish oil‚ regardless of the kind of manufacturing process used, needs to be processed in order to remove contaminants and pass minimum laws and standards (such as California’s Proposition 65). This process always requires the use of heat. This includes so-called “cold-pressed” fish oils. Cold-pressed oil also must also use heat during processing to turn the raw material into oil and remove impurities to pass minimum laws and standards.
Nordic Naturals does not use “cold-pressed” processing because it has not been shown to provide a superior quality product. Independent lab results consistently show that our processing techniques deliver oils of exceptional quality and freshness. Certificates of Analysis are available on our website; simply enter your lot number to view the certificate for your specific bottle.
What is the “gold standard” of Nordic Naturals Cod Liver Oil?
Nordic Naturals cod liver oil is made from 100% wild Arctic cod. No fish body oils or synthetic vitamins or additives are ever used. No other brand can honestly make the same claim. Over the past decade, we have perfected our three-step Gold Standard system that allows Nordic Naturals Arctic Cod Liver Oil to surpass even the strict European Pharmacopoeia Standard for purity and freshness:
First, we have built a direct relationship with smaller, independent fishermen, rather than larger trawling vessels, to ensure sustainable harvesting and less time spent at sea.
Second, we are able to minimize oxidation to the greatest degree possible by using nitrogen at every stage of manufacturing to protect the oil from oxygen and decomposition.
Last, since our MSC-certified processing facility in Norway is located right next to the harbor, we are able to keep transportation time at a bare minimum. A few short hours after being caught, the sustainably sourced Arctic cod are delivered whole for immediate processing.
This Gold Standard system enables us to deliver unmatched freshness levels. Third party testing reveals our Arctic Cod Liver Oil to have anisidine values (AV) between 1 and 2—that’s five to ten times below the industry average. AV is a measure of oxidation of the oil, so the lower the number, the fresher the fish oil. Certificates of Analysis are available on our website; simply enter your lot number to view the certificate for your specific bottle.
What does “anisidine value” and “totox value” mean?
Anisidine value (AV) is a measurement of past oxidation of the oil. More specifically, it is the measure of aldehyde production during oxidation of fats. AV essentially reflects how an oil has been handled and stored, versus peroxide value (PV), which measures current oxidation. For both AV and PV, a lower number is better. TOTOX (total oxidation value) is used to describe total oxidation to which the oil has been exposed. TOTOX = 2 x PV + AV.
The fish oils used in Nordic Naturals’ products typically range between TOTOX values of 5 and 14. Recent tests of Nordic Naturals raw fish oils report TOTOX values of 7.0. Certificates of Analysis are available on our website; simply enter your lot number to view the certificate for your specific bottle.
The established upper limits, as set by the current Voluntary Standards for Omega-3s* in the United States, are as follows:
Peroxide value: Maximum is 5 mEq/kg
Anisidine value: Maximum is 20 mEq/kg
TOTOX: Maximum is 26 mEq/kg
*Council for Responsible Nutrition 2006 Voluntary Monograph
Where are Nordic Naturals products manufactured and encapsulated?
100% of Nordic Naturals fish oil is manufactured in Norway. Nordic Pharma, Nordic Naturals’ new omega-3 manufacturing plant in Arctic Norway, is one of the most advanced processing plants in the omega-3 industry. Wholly owned and operated by Nordic Naturals, Nordic Pharma is a custom-designed, state-of-the-art plant built to pharmaceutical grade standards. All of our liquid and soft gel products are bottled and encapsulated at our plant in Southern California. All of our gummy products are manufactured in the United States.
Does the color of fish oil have anything to do with its quality?
The color of any fish oil results from the species of fish that is used to produce it. Fish species that have colored flesh will produce fish oil of similar color. The color of the oil is no indication of quality. Only third-party testing for purity and freshness will reliably show the quality of a fish oil product.
Why are the lemon Nordic Naturals soft gels cloudy while the strawberry and unflavored soft gels are clear?
In many Nordic Naturals formulas, we use natural fruit flavorings to enhance the palatability of our oils. This process involves adding these flavorings to both the oil and to the soft gel itself. These flavorings are derived from natural fruit essences, and differ slightly depending on the fruit used. The natural lemon flavor, for example, takes on a cloudy appearance when combined with fish oil, whereas the strawberry flavor does not.
Why is there a brown spot in my soft gel?
In all Nordic Naturals formulas, we use natural antioxidants (vitamin E for example) to help preserve the freshness of the oil. In many formulas, we also use natural fruit flavors to augment the palatability of our oils. Because these natural components are present in the soft gels, occasionally they can collect and concentrate at a specific point in the soft gel—which can create a discolored spot. This spot may dissipate when shaken, or may stay in a fixed place in the event that the spot adheres to the wall of the soft gel.
Enteric coating of fish oil soft gels has become popular. Is it important or necessary?
Enteric coating uses various compounds to coat the outside of soft gels in order to prevent them from being dissolved by stomach acids, so that the soft gel passes through the stomach to the small intestine where it will then dissolve. We believe the main reason why fish oil soft gels are enteric coated is to prevent repeat or burping. It is possible that enteric coating may be used to hide the fishy repeat associated with low quality/rancid oils with high TOTOX numbers. Fresh fish oil with low TOTOX values does not need to be masked. It is also important to note that consumers with sub-optimal digestion may not digest and absorb fish oil from an enteric-coated capsule.
Which Nordic Naturals fish oils are concentrated and which are not?
Nordic Naturals offers all our Arctic Cod Liver Oils in their natural concentrations, simply purified. Nordic Naturals fish body oils that are also sold as non-concentrates are: Omega-3 (and Omega-3D™), Complete Omega™ (and Complete Omega-D3™), Complete Omega™ Junior (and Complete Omega-D3™ Junior), Omega Woman®, and Omega-3 Pet™. Our omega-3 gummy products are not concentrated. All other Nordic Naturals fish oil products offer various concentrations of EPA and/or DHA.
Why doesn’t Nordic Naturals include niacin in their Nordic Berries Multivitamin?
The simple answer is that niacin in this supplement isn’t necessary. Here’s why:
Children 1–10 yrs. need about 6–12 mg/day and this is easily accomplished with a normal diet (and can also convert from tryptophan). Secondly, it only takes 10–20 mg/day of supplemental niacin to cause a skin flushing, GI upset, and possible mild liver damage.
The Food and Nutrition Board sets the upper limit at about 10–15 mg/day for children 1–8yrs. So it’s likely that if niacin were in this supplement, its RDA would be reached and easily exceeded (since Nordic Berries taste so good)!
Why does Nordic Naturals add vitamin d3 to many of their fish oils?
There is growing concern in the medical and scientific community about the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency. In 2008, the American Academy of Pediatrics doubled its vitamin D recommendations for infants, children, and adolescents to 400 I.U.s a day in response to the mounting consensus that vitamin D deficiency is an under-recognized epidemic.
In response, Nordic Naturals offers vitamin D3 products (which do not contain fish oil) for children and adults who do not receive adequate sun exposure, in a dose that experts recommend—1000 I.U.s per serving. And we’ve also introduced several fish oil + vitamin D3 formulas that deliver 1000 I.U.s of vitamin D3 per serving, in addition to the omega-3s EPA and DHA.
We use the D3 (or cholecalciferol) form of vitamin D in our products because it is the natural and most easily absorbed form, which the body makes from sunlight. Long known for its role in enhancing the absorption of calcium and phosphorus for strong bones, vitamin D is also linked to a variety of other functions in optimizing health, including the regulation of the immune and neuromuscular systems, and the modulation of mood and sleep rhythms.
Do Nordic Naturals products and containers contain phthalates?
No. Phthalates are plasticizers sometimes used in the manufacturing of plastic piping and industrial equipment. They have been in the news recently for their illegal use in some parts of Southeast Asia. Nordic Naturals is committed to the safety and efficacy of our products.
Nordic Naturals products and plastic containers do not use phthalates in any stage of our process. The US EPA and the World Health Organization have strict guidelines regarding phthalates and Nordic Naturals has always adhered to these standards.