Fish oil suppliers have rejected concerns over the safety of omega-3 supplements after a lawsuit was filed against manufacturers and retailers in California.

The lawsuit, filed in San Francisco yesterday (3 March), alleges that a number of omega-3 products exceed limits for polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) established under California’s Proposition 65 rule.

Citing a number of leading fish oil manufacturers, including Omega Protein, Solgar and Pharmavite, the suit called for compensation of US$2,500 per person exposed to the PCB-containing products.

“In spite of knowing that residents of California were and are being exposed to PCBs when they ingest defendants’ fish oil supplements, defendants did not and do not provide clear and reasonable warnings that these products cause exposure to chemicals known to cause cancer, birth defects and other reproductive harm,” the complaint, which was filed on behalf of Chris Manthey, Benson Chiles and Manteel Environmental Justice, insisted.

The suit calls on the companies to cease production of products containing PCBs.

However, fish oil manufacturers have insisted that their products are safe.

“Fish oil supplements are among the safest, most beneficial health products on the market,” Andrew Shao, SVP of scientific and regulatory affairs at the Council for Responsible Nutrition said.

Shao dismissed the complaint as a lawsuit “looking for media attention” - not “a public safety concern”.

“PCBs are ubiquitous within the environment, which means that all fish—whether fish found in oceans and rivers or fish oil supplements—contain at least trace amounts of PCBs,” he commented.

Meanwhile, Omega Protein expressed its “disappointment” at the suit.

“The company's products are in full compliance with all federal laws promulgated by the US Food and Drug Administration, standards of the European Commission and the labelling requirements of California's Proposition 65,” the group insisted.