Krill oil in Korea: MFDS proposes to follow CODEX standards to safeguard quality

By Tingmin Koe

- Last updated on GMT

South Korea's regulator MFDS has proposed to follow the CODEX standards to safeguard the quality of krill oil products. ©Getty Images
South Korea's regulator MFDS has proposed to follow the CODEX standards to safeguard the quality of krill oil products. ©Getty Images

Related tags Krill oil South korea Codex

South Korea is tightening its watch over the quality of krill oil by proposing to follow the CODEX standards, including setting a minimum requirement for phospholipids concentration and limiting the amount of linoleic acid and myristic acid.

Linoleic acid is found in vegetable oil while myristic acid is found naturally in palm oil, coconut oil, and butter fat.

The Ministry of Food and Drug Safety (MFDS) said on September 30​ that it is planning to follow the CODEX standards​ to safeguard the quality of krill oil consumer products.

The main reason is to ensure that krill oil products are not mixed with lower-priced vegetable oil, such as soybean oil.

The MFDS is seeking public feedback on the proposed changes, which will close on November 30.  

According to its announcement, the amount of permitted linoleic acid and myristic acid is set at 3 per cent or less, and between 5 and 13 percent respectively – in line with CODEX standards.

Linoleic acid is found in large amounts in vegetable oil. For instance, regular soybean oil contains about 48 to 59 per cent of linoleic acid, while that of corn oil is usually between 34 and 65.6 per cent, canola oil between 15 and 30 per cent, and 48.3 to 74 per cent for sunflower oil.

On the other hand, soybean oil, canola oil, and sunflower oil only contains 0 to 0.2 per cent of myristic acid, while corn oil is between 0 and 0.3 per cent.

Responding to queries from NutraIngredients-Asia, ​Insik Kim, director and executive officer at South Korea based krill oil supplier Biocorp said that the local krill oil industry was taken aback by the announcement.

“MFDS’s announcement has shocked the Korean krill oil market,” ​she said, adding that majority of the krill oil players were compliant with the producing quality krill oil.

She added that the lower limit for myristic acid was considered “a little bit tight” for highly concentrated krill oil.

“In our experience, when phospholipid contents are highly concentrated, myristic acid goes down to around five per cent,” ​she said.  

In addition, the MFDS highlighted that phospholipid concentration in krill oil should be at least 30 per cent, which Kim said was an “appropriate” ​requirement.

Usually, krill oil contains about 40 to 50 per cent of phospholipids rich in DHA and EPA, alongside 30 to 40 per cent of triglycerides.

“It is necessary to prepare standards and specifications to eradicate the fraudulent practices of mixing krill oil – which has recently been gaining attention as a health food – with other low-priced edible oils and fats,” ​the MFDS said.

It was reported in June​ that vegetable oil was found in products claimed to be 100 per cent krill oil.

According to CODEX, krill oil should be derived from the Euphausia superba, ​and should also comply with a specific set of acid and peroxide values if the phospholipid concentration is 30 per cent or more.

Test method

The MFDS will also set up a test method to confirm the types of fatty acids and amounts of phospholipids present in krill oil, namely the nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) method and High-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) method. 

At the moment, the country is using the acetone insoluble method to analyse the phospholipid concentration in krill oil, which the MFDS said suffered from low reproducibility. 

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