The History of Icelandic Fish Oil Production
The first Icelandic fish oil production was established in 1938 by Tryggvi Olafsson and his brother Thordur, in response to a general need for vitamins A and D. From 1938 to 1950 Iceland exported a large share of its production to the Upjohn company in the USA, which extracted vitamins as a benchmark, testing ground and research site for the company.
It all started with a telegram from E.C. Wise from the Upjohn Company in Michigan, USA in 1936. The telegram was to Tryggvi Olafsson, asking if any cod liver oil was available. The US company had previously sourced its oil from Norway; however, suddenly the content of Vitamin D had dropped drastically. It now needed an alternate source and placed an order for 800 tons of cod liver oil. Olafsson did not have a factory, but he had a building site and along with his wife he travelled to Norway in 1937 to select and ordermachinery. The construction of the factory was completed by the end of that year and LYSI was formally established on 10 January 1938.
The demand for cod liver oil was due to the need for vitamins A and D, which proved positive in countering rickets and night blindness. Iceland soon became one of the largest producers of cod liver oil in the world. Most of its production was exported to the USA, although during World War II there was an agreement in effect between the governments of Iceland and the UK that the latter would be allowed to purchase half of all production during the war. Fish production proved profitable during the period.
Doctors made a discovery, finding that by raising the polyunsaturated fatty acids in the diet, cholesterol levels in the blood could be lowered. Hence, they recommended the use of fish oil instead of vegetable oils. Production of winterised medicinal cod liver oil in consumer packaging began. Around 1960, a laboratory was established and regular research into cod liver oil commenced. Ever since, the Icelandic market has played an important role as a benchmark, being an important testing ground and research area for the company.
In 1979 a scientific paper published by Drs. Dyerberg and Bang concluded that consumption of fish lipids reduced the risk of coronary diseases. This article had a huge impact and consequently cod liver oil sales soared. Iceland placed increasing emphasis on research and development, with the result that Iceland is today one of the leaders in technological know-how in the field of omega-3 and its utilization. The Icelandic factory obtained HACCP certification of its quality control system in accordance with ISO 9002, as well as a GMP (FDA guidelines) license for its packing department, being the world’s first cod liver oil manufacturer to do so.
This was a new era in Iceland’s fish oil history, where sales rapidly expanded and research and new product development was stronger than ever. The factory received both ISO 9001 and 22000 certification during this time. In 2005, a new processing plant was built, which is uniquely equipped for the production of marine lipids, utilizing state-of-the-art technology at all stages of processing. Iceland’s most recent products include concentrated fish oils. In 2007 the factory was approved by the Icelandic Medicines Control Agency (IMCA) to be fully GMP (API) licensed. The company’s sales and marketing efforts over past decades received recognition in 2007 when the factory won the President of Iceland’s Export Achievement Award.
Fish oil production was again doubled with the opening of an additional state-of-the-art production facility in Reykjavik, Iceland.