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Fish oil shelf life

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12 replies to this topic

#1 steelsky

Posted 22 May 2011 - 04:42 AM

I've purchased a bulk of fish oil softgels (specifically Krill oil) which should last me for about 18 months. I ordered both from Swanson and NSI.
On the bottles there is the manufacturing date and I cannot find the expiration date.
Anyone knows how long after manufacturing the softgels should last, and what is the best way to store them for a longer shelf life?

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#2 Sillewater Re: Fish oil shelf life

  • Location:Canada

Posted 22 May 2011 - 04:54 AM

I do not know how long they keep but i would store them in the fridge. Also in the future maybe buy liquid instead. Not only do caps increase surface area exposure to air but the process of making gel caps is actually quite hot (just like for canning).
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#3 nameless Re: Fish oil shelf life

Posted 22 May 2011 - 05:05 AM

Interesting about gel caps... I always considered gels superior to liquid, due to less oxidation via the gels protecting the oils inside.

Do all gel/capsule manufacturers produce heat during processing? Do manufacturers provide oxidation numbers based on capped or oil before capping?

And for the OP, yeah, I'd probably refrigerate them too, unless for some odd reason krill isn't supposed to be refrigerated (thought I read somewhere it was best to leave at room temp... no idea why though). If fish oil, I'd say even freeze it, but not sure what that'd do to krill.

For the Swanson oil, you can email them and ask when it expires. Their customer service is usually pretty decent. Not sure if NSI will help, but they are worth a try too. If they were not specifically swanson/nsi brands, you can contact the manufacturer directly instead.
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#4 Sillewater Re: Fish oil shelf life

  • Location:Canada

Posted 22 May 2011 - 06:27 AM

Well last time I checked gel capsules are permeable to oxygen and the process used to form the gel capsule is "heat gelation":

http://www.google.ca...epage&q&f=false [read claim 0180]

From correspondence with various supplement manufacturers I get mixed messages about whether gelatin is permeable to oxygen or not, but based on the words of those I trust, it is. If it is in a bottle with a thin neck that is the only part of the oil that is exposed to oxygen. For shipping unstable oils I prefer the top of the bottle to be flushed with nitrogen (but that is not always possible).

Also especially with fish oil, to remove contaminants requires different methods of processing and some of them require heat (the amount and time of contact depends on the type). If performed in a vacuum or nitrogen atmosphere then oxidation is absent.

Currently there are methods used by pharmaceutical companies (such as enzyme gelation, or microencapsulation) but I doubt we will be seeing this anytime soon in supplement manufacturers. This is why I use Jarrow's Flax seed oil and break open a Vitamin E capsule into it.
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#5 steelsky Re: Fish oil shelf life

Posted 22 May 2011 - 09:27 AM

Can anyone comment about the freezing option, and whether it is damaging or rather prolongs the shelf life.
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#6 nameless Re: Fish oil shelf life

Posted 22 May 2011 - 06:07 PM

Can anyone comment about the freezing option, and whether it is damaging or rather prolongs the shelf life.

If you don't want to contact Swanson/NSI, another option is to go right to the source.

If a Neptune oil, you can contact Neptune here:

If Superba:
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#7 MrSpud Re: Fish oil shelf life

  • Location:eternity

Posted 22 May 2011 - 08:05 PM

Swanson just recently switched to a "manufactured on" date rather than an expiration date. They did this because it is the cheapest easiest way to be compliant with the new GMP (Good Manufacturing Procedures) regulations where you are supposed to have data to support an expiration date if you use one. Many companies used to just put either 2 or 3 years expiration for everything, but only some actually tested the product with stability studies to make sure the product was stable. Now, the new regulations state you have to have the data to put the date on the product so many are starting to just put on the manufacturing date rather than taking the time and spending the money to perform stability studies to generate the required data to support the expiration date. The regulations state that it is optional to use expiration dating but that, if you do, you have to be be able to support it with data. If you ask Swanson, they will tell you that the product should still be good for 2 years from the manufacturing date.

A properly made fish oil softgel should be more stable than a liquid product. The biggest danger to the fish oil is exposure to air. If a manufacturer is doing it properly, the fish oil should be blanketed with nitrogen during processing into either softgels or as liquids into bottles. The problem with the liquid products is when you open the bottle and take your first dose, you lose the nitrogen in the headspace of the bottle and now have air in the bottle and the process of oxidation begins. A softgel that was encapsulated properly shouldn't have been exposed to enough oxygen to make it go rancid and a gelatin capsule is a good enough oxygen barrier. If a softgel was made improperly by allowing the fish oil to get exposed to air before encapsulation or a liquid fish oil product was accidently exposed to air before bottling, it can start going rancid right away, irregardless of the expiration date.

Softgels are manufactured on a rotary die machine where the molten gelatin is cast into flat ribbons on cool rotating drums. The gelatin ribbons pass between two rotating dies with a wedge sitting on top of the dies. The wedge has injection holes that injects the fish oil into the gelatin as the 2 gelatin ribbons come together and pockets in the dies form the shape of the capsule as the fish oil is injected into them. The fish oil is at room temperature. The gelatin ribbons are cooler than room temperature. The wedge itself is heated to between 95 and 105 degrees farenheight. The wedge is just warm enough that the warmth from the wedge and pressure from the rotating dies seals the gelatin seams as the capsule is being injected, but not hot enough to melt the gelatin again. If the wedge is too hot the capsules come out very misshapen. The fish oil is only in the wedge for a very short period and doesn't warm up significantly. If the fish oil was hot the capsules would greatly deform. For example, sometimes softgels are made with waxy substances as the fill material being encapsulated. The waxy substances need to be warmed to be fluid enough to encapsulate and they are very hard to encapsulate without melting the gelatin and making a big mess. The fill material pretty much shouldn't exceed 95 degrees farenheit. Phytosterols are one type of waxy things that would need to be heated to be made encapsulatable and they are very difficult to encapsule properly because of the heat. Fish oil isn't waxy and doesn't need to be warmed to encapsulate.

Putting fish oil or krill oil capsules in the freezer will probably make them last even longer and shouldn't cause them any harm. Just be careful if you open the bottle while the capsules are still cold because condensation will form on them and the capsules will get all soft from excess moisture. Better to let the bottle warm up a bit before opening it.

Edited by MrSpud, 22 May 2011 - 09:00 PM.

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#8 MrSpud Re: Fish oil shelf life

  • Location:eternity

Posted 22 May 2011 - 08:36 PM

Here's the info on Swanson's website http://www.swansonvi...upplements.html

And here's a visual for the softgel encapsulation
Attached File  Softgel.jpg   23.5KB   41 downloads
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#9 nameless Re: Fish oil shelf life

Posted 22 May 2011 - 09:44 PM

Ooh, thanks Mr. Spud. You always have good fish oil posts.

If you don't mind saying, what brands of fish oil do you generally recommend? I've been using Barlean's gels (low dose) lately, but in the past have also primarily used Carlson's and Nordic Naturals. Just wondering which fish oils you feel may be best and also if you feel form (trig vs Rtg vs Ester) matters much.
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#10 MrSpud Re: Fish oil shelf life

  • Location:eternity

Posted 22 May 2011 - 10:55 PM

Ooh, thanks Mr. Spud. You always have good fish oil posts.

If you don't mind saying, what brands of fish oil do you generally recommend? I've been using Barlean's gels (low dose) lately, but in the past have also primarily used Carlson's and Nordic Naturals. Just wondering which fish oils you feel may be best and also if you feel form (trig vs Rtg vs Ester) matters much.

The brands you mentioned all are known to be good quality. A bit pricier than others, but with great reputations. There are actually many good brands these days, I haven't heard of any major problems lately with any fish oil capsules or with the Brand name liquids. Even sites such as consumer labs generally don't find any real quality issues, they just fail some if they are less than 100% of their label claim [even though the companies are sometimes going by a not less than 80% for the ones they consider to be natural (i.e. triglyceride form)]. I have heard of some of the name brand Krill oil products having rancidity issues though. Pretty much if they reek I wouldn't use them. I also had to throw away a bottle of one name brand fish oil capsules because I burped up a rancid taste (even though they were enteric coated) and then dumped out the capsules and some of them were turning brown which is a sign of oxidition. They probably got exposed to air before or during encapsulation. Also avoid any capsules with dark brown splotches on their surface. This means that either they had some leakers or didn't remove all of the excess fish oil on the surface of the capsules if they had some problems during encapsulation. You always end up with at least a little bit of fish oil on the surface of the capsules during encapsulation (and if you have problems you end up with lots of excess oil on the capsules surface) and it has to be removed right away or it starts to oxidize and gets real sticky and can't be removed at all after about 2 days. Eventually it continues to oxidize until it is a dry brown varnish and isn't sticky anymore. Fish oil on freshly made softgels can be removed right away just by throwing in some oil absorbing cloths into the capsule tumblers that help dry the capsules or can be polished off with cloths sprayed with alcohol if less than about a day later or so. Anyways, leakers are worse. A leaking fish oil capsule gets air into it as the oil leaks out and goes rancid. If you have one leaker you typically have more nearby with thin seams that can easily develop into pinhole leakers at their injection point on the seam if exposed to any stress (such as shipping the capsules or minor heat during storage).

I actually prefer natural triglyceride fish oils, but I don't currently actually use that type anymore. I take lots of fish oil because of high triglycerides and I had to quit taking the natural triglyceride ones after experiencing nausea from eating some bad salmon one time. I used to eat lots of wild alaskan salmon and take fish oil too, but after eating some bad salmon one time I found I couldn't eat the fish oil capsules anymore without getting nausea. Wierd, but I also couldn't eat salmon anymore for about a year after that and even now only eat it about once or twice a month. Anyways, I ended up switching to the enteric coated ones because they didn't make me nauseated and I ended up going for the convenience of the ethyl esters. I take enteric capsules and take one or 2 high DHA ones (50% DHA/25% EPA Ethyl Esters, 1000mg) in the morning and three of the high EPA (30% total omega-3s which typically are higher in EPA, lower in DHA and tend to be reesterified triglycerides). You can get these capsules from different companies under different brands, but they actually all originate at the same 2 or 3 companies. For example, you can get the high DHA ones from NOW Foods and the 30% Omega-3 ones as Kirkland from Costco (but the same capsules are also sold as different brands).

Edited by MrSpud, 22 May 2011 - 11:16 PM.

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#11 steelsky Re: Fish oil shelf life

Posted 23 May 2011 - 02:41 PM


Thank you very much on the very informative post about encapsulation of fish oil and its shelf life. Just the perfect post - had anything I even needed to know.

Would you happen to have in opinion on Krill oil vs. fish oil?

Thanks again.
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#12 Duster Re: Fish oil shelf life

  • Location:Chicago, IL

Posted 23 May 2011 - 09:17 PM

Don't mean to drag this too far off topic, but what would you make of this product by Puritan's Pride:

The site doesn't list the amount of EPA and DHA individually, just the total. Nor does it mention if the product is in triglyceride or ethyl ester form. However, with their buy 1 get 2 free deal, this seems to be the most economic source of omega 3's I've seen at a little under 10g of omega 3's per dollar. Your advice?

EDIT: On top of this, I've always been drawn to concentrated fish oils because regular fish oil tends to contain at least as much saturated fat as it does DHA+EPA

Edited by Duster, 23 May 2011 - 09:19 PM.

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#13 nameless Re: Fish oil shelf life

Posted 24 May 2011 - 06:32 PM

Thanks again for the info, Mr. Spud.

I had a similar bad reaction to a food like you did, but it wasn't salmon... but almonds. I'm not sure I had food poisioning, but it certainly felt like I did. Note: don't take nuts from those open food bins at health food stores. Anyway, I had a real hard time eating almonds afterwards.

I've been going with natural trig fish oils myself, not that data necessarily supports them being better (perhaps absorb a bit better). Just that if that's the form found in fish naturally, in the back of my mind it seems like that may be the better option.

Only bad fish oils I ever had were: one store brand (tasted one gel and it was utterly disgusting. The other was a Meg-3 oil, which should have been good, but must have sat on the store shelves too long. And also had a leaky fish oil problem with LEF oil. Made the whole bottle rather smelly.

I've tried the Kirkland oils a long time ago, when they sold high concentrate, triglyceride Meg-3, but never went for the low concentrate ones. The fact the bottle is clear (at least the last time I checked) and open to light bothers me a little.

And although my opinion probably won't be as detailed as Mr. Spud's will be...

For krill oil, I'm not currently a big fan of it. It may absorb a little better than fish oil, but due to pricing it's not nearly as cost effective. The astaxanthin may have benefits of its own, but if that's the case, you'd be better off just buying astaxanthin (it's pretty cheap). Antioxidants might help prevent it from spoiling, but that didn't stop Now's Neptune oil from failing a rancidity test by Consumer Labs (yeah, I know they have denied it's validity, but that's what all companies say).

And for the Puritin's Pride oil, if it was me, I'd avoid it. I'd want to know the exact EPA/DHA contents. I also wouldn't consider it the best brand in the World. If you want inexpensive fish oil, maybe look for a cheap Meg-3 somewhere, or go for something like Jarrow. I think they sell 240 cap versions, 600mg/gel, for around $25. I wasn't fond of its flavoring myself, but if that doesn't bother you, it may be fine. At least I'd consider Jarrow a decent company.

Edited by nameless, 24 May 2011 - 06:36 PM.

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