Carlson Cod Liver Oil Review – The Best Fish Oil?

different sized bottles of Carlson cod liver oil on store shelf

In this Carlson cod liver oil review we’ll take a closer look at the fish source, amount of omega 3 fatty acids and other ingredients, as well as dosages and pricing.

Carlson Labs is an American-based nutritional supplement company that produces vitamins, minerals and fish oils.

The company got their start in the mid-1960’s with a single vitamin E product. In the 1980’s they began importing sustainable fish oils from Norway.

Fish oils are a great source of the omega 3 fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). There are a number of published studies verifying the health benefits of omega 3 fatty acids, including lowering high blood pressure and elevated triglyceride levels.

What sets cod liver oils apart from other fish oils is that they also provide a natural source of vitamin A and vitamin D.

Carlson Labs cod liver oil is currently one of the most popular omega 3 fish oil supplements available in North America.

However, as you’ll see further below in our review, we found a slight difference in the ingredient sources used for the vitamins A and D between the USA and Canadian products.

Review of Carlson Cod Liver Oil Manufacturer’s Claims:

The following information is based on product and marketing material received through Carlson Labs.

1. What’s their Fish Source?

– Carlson Labs claims to use cod caught in the cold, unpolluted waters near Norway. Using fish species that have less exposure to environmental toxins and contaminants may help produce a ‘cleaner’ and more healthier fish oil.

– Carlson Labs claims they use only fresh fish liver extracted from each daily catch of cod to enhance the freshness and purity of their products.

2. How Fresh is this Product?

– this product is packaged with nitrogen gas to maintain freshness. The gas is pumped into the bottle to replace the oxygen, which prevents fatty acid oxidation. This is called nitrogen blanketing and it’s commonly used in the chemical, food and pharmaceutical industries to help preserve and maintain the integrity of the oils.

– the bottle we purchased for this review had a clean smell and fresh taste upon first opening (no strong fishy odor or taste). So it appears the nitrogen packing is an effective packaging method.

3. Is it Lab Tested?

Carlson Labs claims to regularly test their products with FDA-registered labs that follow AOAC International protocols. Their products are reportedly free of detectable levels of mercury, lead, PCB’s and other contaminants.

At press time, we tried contacting the company to verify their tests results and are currently waiting for their response.

Review of Carlson Cod Liver Oil Ingredients

bottle of Carlson Cod Liver Oil Super 1000 mg. soft gels

So what exactly do you get in a daily dose Carlson cod liver oil?

Cod liver oil is a natural source of omega 3 fatty acids, vitamins A and D.

In the past, the amounts of vitamin A and D you’d get in cod liver oils would depend in the actual levels found in the fish livers used to make the oil. With modern manufacturing techniques, they can now provide more consistent amounts because they can these ingredients during processing.

That being said, we found a difference in the ingredients used  for Vitamins A and D depending on if you buy Carlson cod liver oil in the USA or CANADA….

Here’s a Canadian Ingredient Label from a bottle of Carlson Cod Liver Oil sold in CANADA for a single 1 teaspoon (5 ml):

Canadian ingredient label of Carlson cod liver oil

CANADIAN LABEL of Carlson Cod Liver Oil

One teaspoon supplies a total of 1100 mg. of omega 3 fatty acids which yields 500 mg. of DHA and 400 mg. of EPA.

You get 400 IU of Vitamin D3 (100% Daily Value), 850 IU of Vitamin A (17% DV ) and 10 IU of Vitamin E (33% DV).

The ingredient label indicates that the Vitamin A and D are sourced directly from the oils.

For comparison, here’s a USA Igredient Label from a bottle of Carlson Cod Liver Oil sold in the USA:

USA version of Carlson cod liver oil ingredient label review

USA LABEL of Carlson Cod Liver Oil

The USA version of contains  Vitamin A sourced from cod liver oils and retinyl palmitate. The vitamin D is from cod liver oil and cholicalciferol.

Different Countries: Different Ingredients

Why is there a difference in vitamin sources between the Canadian and American cod liver oils?

We believe this may be due to variations in regulations for natural health product labeling between the two countries.

white bottle of vitamin A pills

Retinyl palmitate is basically a synthetic form of Vitamin A (retinol from Vitamin A and palmitate from palm oil).

There’s ongoing controversy on why synthetic vitamins should be avoided.

In Canada, retinyl palmitate is restricted for use only in cosmetic products and it’s actually banned in Germany.  However, Health Canada and the FDA both consider retinyl palmitate to be safe when taken as an oral vitamin.

How much actual retinyl palmitate you get per teaspoon of Carlson cod liver oil is hard so say, as it this information isn’t indicated on the ingredient label.

If you live in the USA and prefer to use only 100% naturally-based cod liver oils, then you may want to look for an alternative product that doesn’t contain this synthetic form of Vitamin A.

Review of Carlson Cod Liver Oil Soft Gels and Liquids

Carlson cod liver oil is available in soft gel capsules and bottled oils.

There are many pros and cons to using cod liver oil capsules. While some people prefer the convenience and safety of soft gels, some people may have difficulties swallowing and are unable to benefit from from.

One of the advantages of using bottled oils is that you now get lemon-flavored cod liver oils, and other flavors, which help make the products more palatable.

Carlson Cod Liver Oil Soft Gels:

  • Currently only available in 1000 mg. If you have difficulty swallowing this size of soft gel, you may have to resort to using the liquid oils.

  • Comes packaged in 100 to 300 capsules per bottle.

  • Average prices ranged from $12 to $30 per bottle, depending on quantity and where you buy them.

Carlson Cod Liver Oil Liquids:

  • The bottled liquids are available in two sizes: 250 ml and 500 ml bottles.

  • Available in Lemon, Fruit Splash and Natural Flavors – the ingredient labels don’t indicate what is used for the flavoring ingredients.

  • Suggested Retail Price for a 250 ml bottle is about $22 and a 500 ml bottle ranges in price from $40 – $50.

  • We found a 250 ml size bottle will last more than a month when taking one 50 ml serving per day (50 total servings per bottle).

In spite of the lack of Certificates of Analysis or other third-party testing results for consumers to review, this product appears to be popular with consumers.

More than 90% of customers who bought Carlson Norwegian Cod Liver Oil from gave it a 5 Star Rating.

You can also get products especially made for children, such as Carlson Labs – Norwegian Cod Liver Oil for Kids.

For more helpful tips on buying these types of products, please see my Guide to Buying Cod Liver Oils.


Search for more Carlson Cod Liver Oils at


Home > Cod Liver Oil Home Page > Carlson Cod Liver Oil Review