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Natural Products Insider: Then and Now – Omega-3 monograph

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A voluntary monograph adopted 20 years ago for omega-3 products has paid big dividends, writes Jon Benninger, vice president and market leader at Informa Markets.

This series looks back at the stories we were covering in Natural Products Insider 25, 20, 15, 10 and 5 years ago this month. In addition to providing some interesting history, I explore why these stories are still relevant today.

Then (October 2002): Twenty years ago, in November 2002, we reported the Council for Responsible Nutrition’s (CRN) Omega-3 Working Group ratified a voluntary monograph for long-chain omega-3 essential fatty acid (EFA) products marketed in North America. The group consisted of representatives from 24 companies who worked with industry, regulators, academics and consumer groups for more than a year.

The monograph specified a uniform standard of analysis, quality and purity criteria for the long-chain omega-3s EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexanoic acid). It also identified desirable limits for measures of oxidation in the oils, establishing maximum limits for peroxides and anisidine. The monograph also established stringent limits on remaining traces of contaminants such as dioxins, PCBs and heavy metals that were consistent with European standards and with California’s Prop 65. The CRN Working Group held a meeting at SupplySide West 2002 to discuss the new monograph with any interested attendees.

Now: This important self-regulatory effort lead by CRN 20 years ago has paid huge dividends for the omega-3 market, the overall dietary supplement industry, and for consumers of these products. This CRN Working Group evolved to become the new organization, Global Organization for EPA and DHA Omega-3s (GOED), which was founded in 2006. Today, GOED has 170 members from the global omega-3 supply chain. 

This 20-year, ingredient-specific focus continues to set an example of success for how other ingredients and categories in the dietary supplement market can be advanced. Another success story in this area is the International Probiotics Association (IPA). I would like to see more ingredient-specific efforts like this within our industry, bringing together stakeholders from across the global supply chain for each ingredient.

A longtime industry leader, Len Monheit, has been working on this for some time, and via the Ingredient Transparency Center has established several ingredient-specific groups, including the Collagen Stewardship Alliance, the Global Curcumin Association, the Coconut Coalition of the Americas (CCA) and the Global Prebiotic Association. Based on the 20 years of positive impact on the omega-3 market from these visionary CRN and GOED efforts, I think the value of such efforts is clear.


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