In this series of articles designed to familiarize healthcare professionals with the ins and outs of professional quality omega-3 manufacture, we have addressed raw material sourcing, molecular distillation, and deodorization (steam wash). Now it is time to turn our focus to the critical technology utilized to “filter” unwanted compounds from the oil.
The first filtration process is normally called “winterization,” or cold filtration. The primary benefit of this step is cosmetic, in that fatty compounds that can cloud oil exposed to cold temperatures (refrigeration), are removed. This is done by reducing the bulk oil to near freezing temperatures over a period of three hours. At this point, the oils will cloud up with small particles of coagulated fatty compounds. The oil is then pressed through a special filter that captures these fatty crystals. Cold filtration not only improves clarity, but also contributes to improved taste.
The final filtration step is called organic filtration. This process is critical in that its primary purpose is to remove heavy metals, such as mercury. To achieve this, bentonite clay (and sometimes organic charcoal) are added to the bulk oil. This mixture is gently blended for several hours, allowing maximum binding of heavy metals. The oil is then pressed though a filter that literally removes all of the toxic clay. The resulting oil will now test far below detection limits for all heavy metals.
Organic Filtration plays a critical role in producing a quality product. It ensures that the benefits of fish oil are realized without any harmful heavy metals. This is a step that most quality omega-3’s institute, but it does feel good that the 3Care line is produced at one of the most sophisticated plants in the world (one of only four of its kind), insuring that these steps are done at the highest level.
At this point quality manufacturers, for example Norway’s award-winning Napro Pharma AS, will now send a retained sample of the oil to a third-party laboratory to confirm that absence of heavy metals. In the next issue, we will discuss the final steps to ensuring a quality omega-3 product.