According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), uses of menhaden oil are generally recognized as safe (GRAS), but only when this fish is not used in combination with other added oils that are significant sources of the omega-3 fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).
Rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids - including omega-3 fatty acids - menhaden oil is a refined marine oil sourced from the menhaden fish (Brevoortia species). The EPA and DHA of which together make up approximately 20 per cent by weight of the oil.
With GRAS status alloted in 1997, the oil was given clearing for use as a direct human food ingredient, but with limitations on the maximum use to ensure that daily intakes of EPA and DHA from the oil did not exceed 3.0 grammes per person per day (g/p/d).
The amendments to the rule announced last week dates back to February 2002 when a proposed rule from the FDA highlighted the fact the GRAS status did not take into account the use of any other added oils.
'Because of developing interest in food ingredients that are sources of EPA and DHA, FDA now believes that it is necessary to state explicitly in the regulation when menhaden oil is added as an ingredient in foods,' said the FDA in a statement last week.
Omega-3 fatty acids are gaining in popularity on the back of scientific research that suggests they could be benefical to health - in particular, for the heart and mind.