Organic fruit; organic vegetables; organic meat and dairy, and now I’m just about to add organic fish oil to the list. Surely all fish oil should be organic anyway? After all, most manufacturers make it clear that the oil they use in their supplements comes from only a handful of different species, and most if not all of them live natural lives in our oceans.
Some people might argue that our oceans are too contaminated for anything in them to be organic, but that would be akin to splitting hairs. So, rather than trying to split hairs, let’s all agree with the idea that all ocean caught fish are organic at the time they are caught. Building on this, let’s assume that all the oil harvested from the fish is also organic at the time of harvesting. So, when does the oil change from being organic to being non-organic?
Manufacturing Process & Additives
Virtually all manufacturers actually buy the oil they use in their supplements rather than having to harvest it themselves. As such, they don’t have much control of this process, but they can exercise some caution when choosing their suppliers and by seeking guarantees that no additives are added.
The most common form of oil extraction involves heating the fish up to 95 degrees Celsius in order to separate the oil, water and protein. Once this has been done, the fish go through a press and then a centrifuge is used in order to separate the oil from the sludge which has been created. Up until this point, the oil that has been extracted should still be organic. The only exception would be if oil is being extracted from non-organically farmed fish.
At this stage suppliers have a decision to make. Raw fish oil spoils relatively quickly so they either need to ship it out to their customers as quickly as possible or they have add preservatives. If they don’t, it spoils and will only be fit for use in animal feed, thereby fetching a much lower price.
In most instances, suppliers will ship the oil to the actual manufacturers while it’s still in its organic state, providing that the manufacturer is dealing with a reputable supplier. Unfortunately, it is usually the manufacturers who add preservatives and other additives in order to extend the shelf life of their products; to mask unpleasant odors and etc. For this reason, my advice to people would be that they should avoid buying their supplements from “mass” manufacturers. It’s far better to buy your supplements from companies that only produce enough to meet current customer demands.
Hexane in Fish Oil Supplements
Quite a lot of the supplements you get today contain oil that has essentially been produced from waste and poor quality fish. Suppliers who operate in this manner frequently rely on chemicals in a bid to improve the quality of the oil they are using, and also to maximize yields. One relatively common additive being used is called hexane.
Hexane is a solvent which is made from crude oil and it is classified as a toxic substance. You’ll find plenty of it in rubber cement and in gasoline. Manufacturers use this additive because of its solvent properties in order to try and extract as much oil as they can from poor quality fish.
Some suppliers argue that the hexane is later removed from the oil during further processing, but since the supplement industry remains largely unregulated, there is nobody to ensure that all traces of hexane have in fact been removed. The reality of the matter is, the minute the hexane is added, the oil becomes contaminated.