UK backs fish consumption under new guidelines

Related tags Omega-3 fatty acid

The UK's food watchdog yesterday issued new advice on eating oily
fish, recommending for the first time maximum levels at which the
health benefits clearly outweigh the possible risks from dioxins.

The Food Standards Agency is among the first national food authority to issue safe intake levels on fish, driven by the realm of scientific evidence in recent years showing that oily fish can reduce the risk of death from heart disease.

Following the results of an investigation started in June 2003, the agency has concluded that 'an increase in population oily fish consumption to one portion a week...would confer significant public health benefits in terms of reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. There is also evidence that increased fish consumption might have beneficial effects on foetal development'.

The advice confirms the evidence of the benefits of oily fish consumption, which will have a positive impact on fish oil supplements.

"This is good news for quality fish oils,"​ said Adam Kelliher, CEO of supplement maker Equazen. "The report underlines two things - both the benefits of omega3s for cardiovascular health and during pregnancy, as well as the toxins present in certain fish."

All of the fish oil concentrates made by the leading suppliers go through advanced cleaning and purification processes to rid them of toxins. As a result, they can benefit from consumer fears of mercury ingestion through eating fish and contamination with other chemicals.

"The report does highlight that there is no real way of assessing the toxicity of fish available to consumers,"​ said Kelliher. He pointed out that it is very difficult for consumers to know which fish have come from which seas and the levels of pollution in those waters.

The agency is recommending that girls and women who might have a child one day, and women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, can have up to two portions of oily fish a week, or up to four medium size cans or two tuna steaks a week. Other women, men and boys can have up to four portions of oily fish a week.

Claire Packer, healthcare marketing manager at leading concentrates supplier Croda, added: "Any evidence from a credible body will help to grow the category. It is not always convenient for people to eat fish and not everyone likes it."

She added that consumers interested in nutrition, and therefore likely to eat fish, tend to be the same people who will buy supplements.

The fish oil business does however target an increasing number of health concerns, showing benefit for older adults at risk of heart disease to children needing better concentration levels at school.

Growth of the European omega-3 fatty acids market, currently worth $195 million (marine oils make up 77 per cent of this), is forecast to be around 8 per cent on average to 2010, according to Frost & Sullivan.

The new report could help drive this further.

Heart disease killed 117,500 British people in 2002 but people in the UK still only eat a third of a portion of oily fish a week. Seven out of ten do not eat any fish at all, according to FSA.

Related topics Ingredients

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