The Codex Committee on Fats and Oils (CCFO) has finalised a fish oil draft standard to be included in the Codex Alimentarius, an international collection of food standards and safety rules.

In a report of its 25th meeting session held on 27 February-3 March, the CCFO agreed to send the draft standard to the Codex Alimentarius Commission for adoption during its next meeting in July.

The suggested draft – including several named fish oils, such as anchovy, salmon and tuna oil, and unnamed oils as either mixes or concentrates – is the first ever standard for fish oil in the Codex.

While generally welcomed by the fish oil industry, there were concerns about certain parts of the new standard, Nutritional Outlook reported.

Harry Rice, vice president of regulatory and scientific affairs at the Global Organization for EPA and DHA Omega-3s (GOED), told the news site that his primary concern was the identification of named oils based on matching a fatty acid profile.

“The fatty acids are given in ranges, but it's likely that the ranges will shift over time and then what's in the standard won't correspond to what's being sold. While Codex can adjust the fatty acid ranges, this is a process that takes many years,” he said.

According to Rice, should the CCFO amend the standard in 2019, for example, the amendment proposal would not be submitted until 2021, with the final change approved only in 2023.

The European Union also submitted a comment on the draft standard to the CCFO on 8 March, noting that the labelling of fish oil’s EPA and DHA content should be made obligatory.

According to the EU statement, EPA and DHA were the most valuable constituents of fish oils, and as the EPA/DHA content could vary over a wide range, knowing their precise amounts was “valuable and essential” information for the consumer.

The EU also commented on updating the methods used to determine the oil’s fatty acid composition to correspond to the latest ISO 21966-1 and 12966-4 standards.

The Codex Alimentarius is a voluntary reference standard for food with no obligation for countries or organisations to conform to it, but some states and organisations have adopted it as their reference standard, including the World Trade Organization.