Lawsuit Seeks PCB Warnings on Fish Oil Supplements

Some fish oil capsules sold as health supplements for their Omega-3 fatty acids content have illegally undisclosed and unnecessarily high levels of contamination with polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) compounds, according to a lawsuit filed March 2 in California court.

“Consumers who want the health benefits of fish oil shouldn’t also have to take the health risks of an extremely toxic man-made chemical,” said David Roe, one of the attorneys for the plaintiffs. “And they don’t have to, since preliminary test results show that some fish oil brands have only 1/70th as much PCB contamination in them as others.”

The lawsuit names eight makers and sellers of fish oil, shark oil, fish liver oil and shark liver oil supplements that have PCB contamination above the so-called “safe harbor” limits set for human PCB consumption under California’s Proposition 65. That law requires consumers to be warned about such exposures. Proposition 65, passed as a ballot initiative by a 2:1 margin in 1986, has a consistent history of forcing consumer products to eliminate toxic chemical ingredients or reduce them below published “safe harbor” limits.

“While looking at the industrial fishing operations of controversial Omega Protein, we found that the industry seems very aware that fish oil supplements can be high in PCBs,” said Chris Manthey, one of the plaintiffs. “That's why many of them say their supplements have been ‘treated’ to remove or reduce PCBs,” he said. “But since they don’t say how much PCB contamination is still left, even consumers who choose ‘treated’ supplements can’t know what PCB levels they're swallowing along with their daily omega-3."

The other plaintiffs are Benson Chiles and the Mateel Justice Foundation. The suit was filed in San Francisco Superior Court, according to lead attorney William Verick. More information is available at

The initial defendants named, in alphabetical order, are: CVS Pharmacy, Inc.; General Nutrition Corp. (GNC); Now Health Group, Inc.; Omega Protein, Inc.; Pharmavite LLC (Nature Made brand); Rite Aid Corp.; Solgar, Inc.; and TwinLab Corp.

Plaintiffs are conducting more tests and expect to add other companies to the legal action, if and when test results of their fish oil products show levels of PCB contamination that should have been warned about under California law.

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