FAQs for Consumers
The International Fish Oil Standards™ (IFOS™) Program is the only third party testing and certification program exclusively for fish oil supplements.
Have a question about IFOS? We’ve gathered some of the most common inquiries from consumers to help you better understand how the program works.
What is the IFOS Program and how does it work?
IFOS is a third party testing and certification program for fish oil supplements. It is a voluntary program that showcases the purity, potency and freshness of fish oils.
Once a company subscribes to IFOS, their products are tested by specific lot/batch using direct analysis. The testing results can then be published on the IFOS website in the form of a downloadable Product Report. Product Reports are free for consumers and list all the testing results and star rating for products by lot/batch number.
Why is fish oil quality a concern?
There are three major areas of concern regarding the quality of fish oil supplements: active ingredient content, contaminants and stability.
Active ingredient(s) content
The omega-3 fatty acids EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) are responsible for the numerous health benefits associated with fish oil. Some types of fish oil also contain omega-7 fatty acids for health benefits. Unfortunately, many products on the market have been found to contain less active ingredient than stated on the label.
Environmental contaminants are harmful chemicals that enter the ecosystem as a result of industrial activity. These compounds bioaccumulate in the fatty tissues of fish, meaning that oil derived from these tissues may contain excess concentrations of contaminants.
Contaminants commonly detected in fish oil samples include heavy metals (e.g., mercury, lead, arsenic, cadmium) PCBs, dioxins, furans and dioxin-like PCBs. Clinical research suggests that contaminants from edible marine sources can have negative health effects.
Also known as shelf-life, stability refers to how quickly and easily a product will deteriorate under normal storage conditions. Ingredients that are prone to degradation or spoiling, such as fish oil, can quickly spoil if the product was not formulated adequately, not handled properly during manufacturing or stored in unsuitable conditions (e.g., excessive temperature or humidity).
What does IFOS test for?
IFOS tests fish oil for three key quality concerns: omega-3 concentration, contaminants and freshness. The specific criteria for each an be found here.
How do I read Product Reports?
IFOS Product Reports contain the company’s contact information, a detailed summary of the product, the IFOS 5-star rating and the testing results for that specific batch/lot number. Products with a perfect 5-star rating have passed all IFOS testing categories, meaning they have met IFOS’s high quality standards. Explore Product Reports or click here to download our free infographic on how to read and interpret Product Reports.
Does IFOS endorse certain products or brands?
No. IFOS is completely third party and unbiased. Companies that choose to subscribe to IFOS are doing so on a voluntary basis and are submitting their products for testing. As a result, we do not endorse specific products, brands or companies.
Is my fish oil IFOS certified?
The only way to tell if a product is truly IFOS certified is to look up its lot/batch-specific Product Report on the IFOS website and view the testing results.
Which fish oil should I take/buy?
We do not endorse specific products, brands or companies. One way that consumers can be informed about potency, quality and freshness is to look for products bearing the IFOS certification mark and view their batch/lot-specific testing results on the Product Reports page of the IFOS website. Fish oil that has been IFOS certified is guaranteed to be of the highest safety, purity and stability.
I have a health condition/am pregnant/am breastfeeding and looking for advice on fish oil. Can you help me?
We encourage you to contact your medical doctor or other licesed healthcare practitioner for information about fish oil and your health. As a testing organization, IFOS tests and certifies fish oil products against label claims and industry standards.
Why can’t I find my product on the Product Reports page?
If you do not see your brand of interest on the list, we cannot comment on its quality or purity. In these instances, we encourage you to contact the company directly and refer them to the IFOS Program. Alternatively, you can request a Certificate of Analysis (C of A) from the company which lists the product's analytical testing results.
I have a question about a specific product, SKU or batch/lot number. How can I find out more?
IFOS test results are provided in Product Reports in a standard format that gives results as compared to label claims and recognized standards. Subscribers decide whether to post their results. For information on any other aspect of a product or company, the company should be contacted directly.
Can you provide me with a list of fish oil products that meet certain criteria (e.g., high in EPA, high in DHA, EE form, TG form, omega-3 dose greater than X mg, lowest price, etc.)?
IFOS test results are provided in Product Reports in a standard format that gives results as compared to label claims and recognized standards. Subscribers decide whether to post their results. While we do not provide customized lists of products based on specific criteria, customers can compare the test results for different products using Product Reports.
How does IFOS compare to other testing programs?
IFOS is the only program that: 1) directly tests fish oil products by specific lot/batch; 2) evaluates the omega-3 content, contaminant levels and stability against the most stringent international criteria; and 3) publishes the full batch/lot-specific testing results for free on the IFOS website.
IFOS is completely third party and does not sell, endorse or recommend specific products, brands or companies. All companies that are part of the IFOS Program do so on a voluntary basis for an annual subscription fee plus additional testing costs.
What are IFOS Product Reports?
IFOS Product Reports are comprehensive documents that list all of the testing results for each product by batch/lot number, allowing consumers to read and interpret the testing results and compare products before buying them. They are free for consumers to download from the IFOS website.
What is the IFOS certification mark?
The IFOS certification mark is a seal of approval that companies can place on their IFOS-verified product labels, company website, social media and marketing materials.
If you see the IFOS certification mark on a product label, it means that the product has been tested and certified by the IFOS Program for safety, purity and freshness.
What is the IFOS 5-star rating system?
Once a specific batch/lot is tested through IFOS, it is rated on a 5-star system. Depending on the testing results, products can be awarded from 0 to 5 stars. There are 5 testing categories that a product must pass in order to achieve stars; one star is awarded for each category the product passes.
The process of rating finished products differs from the process of rating raw materials and, as a result, the two types of products have different 5-star criteria. Learn about these here.
Does IFOS include testing to determine the species of fish a product was derived from?
No, testing to determine the species of fish is not a requirement of the IFOS Program. The focus of the IFOS testing is on potency, quality and freshness of the product.
Does IFOS test for radiation?
Yes. IFOS has been testing fish oil samples for radiation since January 1st, 2015.
Does IFOS test other types of supplements like krill oil or algae?
IFOS focuses exclusively on testing fish oil. However, IFOS’s parent company, Nutrasource, offers additional testing and certification programs for other product types. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about these other testing programs.