Krill oil under attack: South Korea recalls 12 products and imposes tougher import measures

By Tingmin Koe contact

- Last updated on GMT

The South Korean authorities have called for tougher inspections of krill oil imports at the customs. ©Getty Images
The South Korean authorities have called for tougher inspections of krill oil imports at the customs. ©Getty Images

Related tags: South korea, Krill oil

South Korea’s authorities have recalled 12 krill oil products after safety tests found banned substances or excessive use of solvents in the products, leading to the authorities calling for tougher inspections at customs.

The country’s Ministry of Food and Drug Safety (MFDS) said that 12 out of the 41 krill oil products tested were ‘non-conforming’ to safety standards.

Neubria krill, Zinofin, na+uralplus, Blue Ocean Krill Oil, UltraMax KrillOil 58, NZ Origin’s Antarctica Krill Oil 500, and Clean Krill Oil 1200 were some of the krill oil capsules cited by the authorities in a statement​.

The inspection examined the levels of extraction solvents hexane, acetone, ethyl acetate, isopropyl alcohol, and methyl alcohol in the products.

While hexane and acetone are permitted extraction solvents, the use of ethyl acetate, isopropyl alcohol, and methyl alcohol are banned.

In the case of Blue Ocean Krill Oil by Onewbio Inc, it was found to contain excessive levels of the banned solvent isopropyl alcohol, measuring at 13.7mg/kg.

Six other products also had problems with either containing banned or excessive amounts of solvent.

The authorities added that Super Power Krill Oil 56, contained 1,071.9mg/kg of hexane, exceeding the standard amount of 5mg/kg by 200 times.

The rest of the products were linked to the use of ethoxyquin – an antioxidant used as a food preservative. The permitted amount for use is 0.2mg/kg.

In NZ Origin’s Antarctica Krill Oil 500, it was found to contain ethoxyquin at levels of 0.5mg/kg.

“This inspection was conducted to confirm whether products on the market are properly manufactured, as consumption of krill oil has become very popular and the consumption has increased,”​ the authorities said in a statement.

They said there were plans to dispose the non-conforming products and conduct investigations on firms that manufacture, import, and distribute such products.

"The MFDS recommends that krill oil is not a health-functioning food but a general food, so we urge you not to be misled by false or hyped advertising without medical or scientific grounds such as disease prevention and treatment effects,”​ the authorities said.

In response to the ongoing saga, the Global Organisation for EPA and DHA Omega-3s (GOED) said brands should ensure that their claims were backed up by science.

“Krill oil products are an important part of the omega-3 market because they offer the health benefits of EPA and DHA. These important nutrients are contained in every cell of the body and have been shown to support heart health, brain health, eye health and prenatal health.

“However, brands need to ensure that their marketing claims are backed up by science in order to maintain the trust of consumers and health authorities,”​ GOED’s executive director Ellen Schutt told us.

Tougher inspection

To stem the flow of non-conforming products into the country, the authorities said they would strengthen safety management at the import clearance stage.

For instance, they would inspect the amounts of ethoxyquin and extraction solvent in imported products.

They will also narrow down the inspection to imported krill oil raw materials, in addition to the imported finished products. 

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