The Norwegian Food Safety Authority has censured factories producing fish oil in Peru for hygiene procedures that could hit Norwegian consumers’ health.
Earlier accounts of polluted fishing waters, with films of sulphurous smelling jelly-like, bacterial saturated organic matter, show anglers fish anchovies that eventually find their way as Omega-3 onto Norway’s shop shelves.
Norwegian companies Copeinca and Austral have strong interests in two factories in Peru’s Ancash Region. Minister of the Environment Erik Solheim has already written to Austevoll Seafood AS, Austral’s sister company, expressing his disquiet.
Head of Section at the Authority, Freide Andersen, is concerned after seeing NRK’s “Consumer Inspectors” documentary.
It allegedly demonstrates how the same hose from contaminated waters is used to transfer the catch from the trawlers to the factories. The fish is then put onto partially covered open-air conveyor belts for onward transport further in to the facilities.
Citing possible breaches of EU hygiene rules, Ms Andersen says, “possible immediate dangers include contamination by birds, sunlight, and the temperatures.”
The partially rotten fish is cooked, with the oil then being stored in tanks for what can be up to 90 days, and vulnerable to oxidisation.
According to researchers, oxidisation, exposure to sunlight, or warmth can turn the fish oil contained in Omega-3 capsules putrid. Apart from giving the oil a bad taste, scientists allege there are “indications” putrid fish oil can cause a stress-like reaction in the human body’s cells.
Nofima researcher Åge Oterhals says investigations show “refining neither stops nor removes the oxidisation process and it also continues when the oil has been made into capsule form for sale in shops.”
Whilst quality regulations forbid the sale of oxidised fish oil in Norway, the Food Safety Authority’s Friede Andersen says, “We must impose stricter requirements on manufacturers. I’m surprised that Norwegian businesses wish to import this as raw material based on conditions shown here [in the documentary].”
In response to NRK's programme, the International Fishmeal and Fish Organisation (IFFO) says, "The programme’s report of fishing boats without chilling facilities regularly landing rotten and stinking fish does not make sense, according to IFFO. Rotten fish does not make good fishmeal and oil, buyers insist on high analytical standards that would not be met by using decomposed fish"
"All fishery products shipped to the EU must meet stringent hygiene regulations as laid down in Commission Regulation (EC) No 1020/2008, including that fish used for oil must be fit for human consumption"