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Holding Our Fish Oils to the Highest Standard

Emed is a leader when it comes to advocating and stocking practitioner fish oils.

The purity of fish oil is essential to its therapeutic value, while sustainable fishing practices are from an ethical standpoint as important.

Each practitioner brand has great fish oil products (capsules and liquid) but there are subtle differences when it comes to comparing Australian Standards versus the brands themselves.

The answer in brief (and as we will see below) leading Australian practitioner brands have endeavoured to not only meet Australian Standards for fish oils but to exceed these expectations.

Commonly Measured Contaminants

Heavy Metals

The further down the food chain and the shorter that lifespan of the fish, the less heavy metal it’s going to have in it, which is why anchovies and sardines are a better choice for fish oils. Four heavy metals are commonly tested for: mercury, lead, cadmium and arsenic.


Mercury is a key concern when it comes to contamination of fish oils. Mercury contamination starts at the very bottom of the aquatic food chain with micro-organisms in the sediments of fresh and ocean water. As mercury goes up the food chain, the water soluble, inorganic mercury ion, Hg2+, is converted to the methylmercury, the toxic form of mercury. Plankton consume the micro-organisms, herbivorous fish consume plankton, and carnivorous fish consume the herbivores. At each stage, methylmercury burden (the amount contained in tissues) increases in a process called bioaccumulation.

To put this in to perspective; at the top of the food chain, tissue mercury levels are thought to be 1800 – 80,000 times higher than levels in surrounding waters.

Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs)

Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) have “low electrical conductivity, high thermal conductivity and high resistance to thermal degradation.” Due to these properties, PCBs were commonly used as weather and fire-proofing materials and popular insulators in electronics. PCBs are a fat-soluble (lipophilic) substance that does not degrade easily – which plays an important role in its negative health effects.

PCBs evaporate easily and persist in the environment for many years. The majority of PCBs are thought to exist in the air and a study conducted in the United States found that 92% of PCBs existed in air, according to the World Health organisation (WHO). Some PCBs, however, are also found in water.  In theory, 209 different PCBs may exist (based on the different locations at which chlorination can occur), however 130 have been positively identified in products to date.


Pesticides such as dioxins, furans, dioxin-like PCBs, DDT, DDD and DDE are environmental pollutants that have the potential to negatively impact human health. Pesticides can accumulate in the body and in large amounts, they can potentially overload our body affecting its ability to function optimally.

Peroxide and P-Anisidine

Peroxide and p-anisidine are produced when fish oils become oxidised. This can occur when proper manufacturing and storage procedures are not adhered to such as exposure to oxygen or prolonged storage. Having high levels of peroxide and p-anisidine not only indicates rancidity from a poorly produced fish oil, it also means the fish oil is less potent as it becomes destroyed and consumers intake harmful products of oxidation.

Anisidine value (AV) is a measurement of past oxidation of fish 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.


International Organisations

A good quality fish oil has undergone rigorous testing. As part of practitioner brands assuring customers of the quality and sustainability, most have (or should have) their fish oil quality assured by an international organisation.



Friend of the Sea

Friend of the Sea (FOS) is an internationally recognised, non-profit, independent organisation whose mission is to conserve the global marine habitat. FOS operates and audits projects, which verify the sustainability of fisheries, reduce their environmental impact, as well as omega-3 fish oil products.

This ensures that brands that are FOS have:

  • Products that are from fish stocks that are not overexploited
  • Fishing practices prevent bycatch of endangered species
  • Fishing practices reduce ecosystem impact
  • Manufacturing processes reflects energy efficiencies
  • Company practices include high standards for social accountability


Global Organisation for EPA and DHA Omega-3s (GOED)

Founded in 2006, GOED is a not-for profit trade association with a goal to increase consumption of omega 3s to adequate levels globally and to ensure that the industry is producing quality omega 3 products which consumers can trust. GOED purity requirements are the most stringent of internationally recognised standards, including the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA).

GOED is an association of the finest manufacturers, marketers and supporters of EPA and DHA omega 3 working to educate consumers and collaborating with government groups, the healthcare community and the industry.

GOED sets high ethical and quality standards for the business sector, demanding particular levels of purity and freshness and guidelines for heavy metals and other contaminants of fish oils for its members .

As a member of GOED,  fish oils are sourced from sustainably managed fisheries. GOED members choose to use fish oil obtained from small fish species, such as anchovies and sardines, as they are able to reproduce more quickly than larger species. Anchovy and sardine fisheries are healthy and strong, and are among the best managed in the world.


Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)

Since 2005 the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) committed to being the worlds leading certification program for sustainable wild capture seafood.

Working with partners to transform the worlds seafood markets and promote sustainable fishing practices, the MSC has developed standards for sustainable fishing and seafood traceability. Both standards meet the worlds strictest best practice guidelines and are helping to transform global seafood markets.

MSC standards were developed through consultation with the fishing industry, scientists, conservation groups, experts and stakeholders. These standards detail the requirements for fisheries to be certified as sustainable and for businesses to trade in certified seafood.



Epax is a world leading brand of concentrated omega-3 fatty acids. They use clean, sustainable, and traceable raw materials, delivering safe and pure fish oils. With a history originating in Norway, their factories are based in the United Kingdom and Norway and the fish oils have a partnership with fisheries in Peru. Epax has Friend of the Sea certification and is a member of GOED. Additionally it is committed to responsible practices in areas of feed safety, raw maria;l procurement and delivery.


Australian Standards

Australian Standards of fish oils are determined and set out by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA).

It measures incidental metals and non-metals such as lead, mercury, cadmium and arsenic.

The TGA have determined the standards for fish oils according to the  European Pharmacopoeia Standard (EPS or Ph Eur). These are considered the highest standards in the industry today.

By following these standards, a manufacturer can guarantee quality products by measuring potency and setting maximum allowances on peroxide, anisidine, and totox levels and heavy metals, dioxins, furans, polychlorinated biphenyl (PCBs), and other environmental contaminants.

Below are the acceptable levels of these incidental metals and non-metals for fish oils according to the TGA .


While these are the values for other organic or inorganic impurities or toxins.




Metagenics uses only high quality, molecularly distilled fish oil as a source of EPA and DHA to ensure purity and batch consistency with low levels of contaminants. Metagenics have ensured that the fish oil concentrates used in their fish oil products contain well below the Australian allowable levels of pesticides, solvents and heavy metals.

Metagenics supports sustainable fishing and marine conservation by only sourcing small fish species using sustainable fishing practices. Metagenics fish oils are certified by Friend of the Sea.



Eagles fish oil products are nitrogen flushed, tested for heavy metals, pesticides and solvent residues in accordance with Australian and international quality standards. Their quality fish oil is fresh and provides a clean, highly purified EPA and DHA. Eagles fish oils are patented by Epax.




The BioCeuticals fish oil range is acknowledged by GOED as complying with its strict purity standards.  BioCeuticals only accept fish oil that test well below each and every mandated purity limit.

BioCeuticals use small fish species (anchovies, sardines, mackerel) as they do not accumulate as much toxins as larger fish species such as tuna and salmon. These fish species are obtained from clean ocean waters and are tested for pesticides and heavy metals. After the fish oil is extracted, contaminant stripping removes pesticides, PCBs, dioxins, mercury, other heavy metals and organic pollutants.

BioCeuticals are also members of the MSC.



Nordic Naturals

Nordic Naturals sources all of its fish from waters that are certified sustainable by FOS.

Nordic Naturals sources sardines and anchovies off the coast of Peru in the South Pacific Ocean, and Arctic cod (Skrei) from the Norwegian Sea in the North Atlantic. Consistent monitoring and testing have determined that there is no risk of radiation in either of these fishing areas from the Fukushima accident.


What is IFOS?

The IFOS (International Fish Oil Standards) Program is the only third party testing and certification program exclusively for fish oils.  As a voluntary, subscription-based service available to the entire fish oil supply chain, IFOS tests products by lot, using direct analysis, for active ingredient content, contaminants and freshness.


Australian practitioner brands exceed Australian standards regarding contaminants. All of the fish oil is exceptional in both purity and sustainability so you know that when you take one of these fish oils you will have optimal therapeutic value.

Further Reading


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