|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
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 order
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. 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. Demand for cod liver oil decreased considerably around 1950 and prices plummeted. The years between
1950 and 1980 proved to be a challenging time for the cod liver oil industry as a whole. Yet despite these
adverse conditions, fish production proved profitable during the period.
The market for cod liver oil continued to be depressed. Doctors had discovered that by
raising the polyunsaturated fatty acids in diet, cholesterol levels in the blood could be
lowered. Hence, they recommended vegetable oil instead of fish 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 domestic 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 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 was given a new lease on life. Iceland
placed increasing emphasis on research and development, with the result that Iceland is today one of the leaders in
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 license for its packing department, being the world's
first cod liver oil manufacturer to do so.
1998 – 2010
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
|ICELAND WINS THE COD WARS!
In 1975 Iceland
declared an Exclu-
sive Fishing Zone
extending 200 miles
in order to reduce
overfishing. It policed
its quota system with the coast guard,
leading to a series of net-cutting
incidents with British trawlers that
fished the areas. As a result, a fleet of
Royal Naval warships and tug-boats
were employed to challenge the fishing
zone. The conflict involved several
cases of vessels ramming each other.
The dispute ended in 1976 when the
British government conceded, and
agreed that after 1 December 1976
British vessels would not fish within
Iceland 200-mile fishing zone.
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