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Datamyne Blog

Covering trade & transport, with tips on using import-export data to advantage

Something Fishy from China

Kansas City Star uses Datamyne to trace origins of fish oil supplements

Fish oil sales in the U.S. are on the rise, from $35 million in 1995 to $359 million in 2005, and just under $1 billion last year, the Kansas City Star reports. Sold in capsule form, fish oil is the country’s No. 3 dietary supplement, taken by nearly one in five American adults. While the label on the bottle may tout the benefits of fish oil, it won’t tell you where the oil came from. And, with roughly 20% originating in China, a country known to have shipped hazardous products in the past, that could be a problem.

In its investigative report, The Star notes that there are no scandals linked to Chinese fish oil, and a spokesman for the People’s Republic of China vouches for its oil’s good quality. However, consumers ought to be able to decide for themselves whether they want to buy Chinese oil say the advocates for more informative labeling.

The Star reviewed every fish oil shipment from China to the U.S. from January 2009 through July 2010, using data compiled at its request by Datamyne. The Star was able to identify dozens of Chinese and U.S. companies involved and determine that a few account for most of the fish oil trade. Most of these larger U.S. importers produce dietary supplements for retailers, making dozens of private or store brands.

The Tariff Act of 1930 does require imported products to be marked for the ultimate purchaser with the last country in which the product underwent “substantial transformation.”  A loose interpretation of the law lets importers label capsules bottled in the U.S. as U.S. products. The Council for Responsible Nutrition is among those pressing for a tighter interpretation that mandates disclosure of the oil’s country of origin, backed by stronger Customs & Border Protection enforcement.

Read the full story here: http://bit.ly/bBwhi8.

Date posted: October 11, 2010

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