FAQs about Food Testing and MIC Molecular Testing


“I think I ate something that made me sick. Where can I send samples for you to test?”

If you are an individual and think you have contracted food poisoning, please see our blog, From The Mail Bag: What To Do if You Think You Have Food Poisoning for more information. If you are business interested in evaluating the Hunter® Real-Time PCR System, please contact us.

“What assays do you have?”

We have test kits in the food safety (pathogen testing), species identification, and industrial areas:

Food Safety:

Salmonella species
Listeria monocytogenes
Listeria species
E. coli O157
E. coli STEC/Big 6 (pre-production format)
Vibrio C/V/P (in development)
Staphylococcus aureus (pre-production format)

Species Identification:

Atlantic Blue Crab
Atlantic Salmon
Coho Salmon
Chinook Salmon
Sockeye Salmon
US Catfish (in development)
Red Snapper (in development)


16S/Total Count (pre-production format)
Bacillus coagulans (pre-production format)
Pre-production format kits are available on a limited basis for beta testing.

“What are the benefits of internal testing with the Hunter® Real-Time PCR System over external labs?”

Doing your testing in-house with the Hunter® System will allow you to receive quicker results with a shorter turnaround time. This eliminates waiting for test results, allowing you to ship products faster or correct problems sooner.

“How easy is the Hunter® System to use?”

Very easy. In most instances, training requires just a few hours. We’ve trained people around the world who have basic lab skills using Skype. For a better understanding of just how easy the Hunter® system is, please check out our YouTube page.

“Are the MAC Cartridges reusable?”

The beauty of the InstantLabs test kits is that they are 100% disposable, and that goes for the MAC cartridge, too. The cartridge is designed to be used once; once complete, it should be properly disposed of.

“Do you have tests for allergens or GMOs?”

We are constantly evaluating the needs of the market. Currently, we do not have tests for allergens or GMOs. If you have specific needs, please contact us.

Getting Started

“How do I create a lab in my facility?”

There are a few basic requirements, such as a separate, dedicated lab space that is not connected to the production floor with at least 100 square feet of space. Beyond that, every situation is different; we can help walk you through the basic concepts or put you in touch with someone who can help you design a space from scratch.

“Do I need additional equipment to use the Hunter® System?”

If you have an established lab, you may have everything you need. Key equipment includes a heat block, pipette, and centrifuge. Contact us for more details; we’d be happy to help you determine what your facility needs.

The Hunter® System

“Is the Hunter® Real-Time PCR Instrument qualitative or quantitative?”

The Hunter® can do both depending on the test kit used. Our Food Safety and Species Identification Test Kits are qualitative; we also have test kits that have been developed for industrial applications that are quantitative.

“Does the Hunter® Real-Time PCR Instrument automatically determine results?”

The Hunter® Real-Time PCR Instrument is programmed to automatically analyze, interpret, and display the test results for you. Also, you can also examine the PCR curves on the instrument or in the PDF report.

“What else besides food can we test with the Hunter®?”

DNA targets can be found everywhere, not just in food, and InstantLabs is here to help you find them. Aside from testing your food products, our kits can also be used in a variety of ways to help you maintain a clean, safe product. This includes environmental testing, water testing, incoming raw ingredients testing, cosmetics testing, and more. If you have a specific problem you need help solving, contact us. We’re here to help design a test specifically for you and your issue.

“Do I need a computer to use the Hunter® Real-Time PCR Instrument?”

The Hunter® does not require and external computer or network connection, but it does have the capability to be connected either via a wireless or wired (Ethernet) connection. This will allow the Hunter® to email reports or export data to a network drive when the run is complete.

“What makes the Hunter® Real-Time PCR System different from other similar test systems?”

The Hunter®’s difference lies in its ease of use. It was designed to work in your facility, at the point of need. The small system requires little experience or time to operate and gives gold standard results.

“What is the detection principle of the Hunter® instrument?”

The Hunter® device is based on industry-proven real-time PCR technology. Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) is considered the gold-standard technology for the molecular detection of nucleic acids. Real-time PCR is a newer high-sensitivity method that allows for monitoring of the PCR reaction in real-time using fluorescent signals. The Hunter® automates and simplifies the real-time PCR process, allowing this powerful technology to be used virtually anywhere.

Food Safety

“Can I test for Salmonella species and E. coli O157 at the same time?”

Yes. The Salmonella species and E. coli O157 Food Safety Test Kits were developed so that you can co-enrich one sample in FASTGRO™ SE and test for both pathogens. Once the samples are enriched and the DNA extracted, the tests are run separately on the Hunter® Real-Time PCR Instrument.

“Can the InstantLabs Testing Kits be used on PCR platforms other than the Hunter® Real-Time PCR Instrument?”

Our Food Safety Test Kits are optimized to run on the Hunter® system. If you would like to run them on other platforms, please contact us.
“Can I contaminate my facility if I have an internal lab?”

There is a big misconception in the marketplace on lab contamination. The Hunter® Real-Time PCR System uses an artificial positive control oligonucleotide, making it impossible to contaminate your product. The misconception that in-house testing can cause contamination of your product comes from a time when in-house testing had to be done using older, less advanced testing methods that require you to use live pathogenic culture as a positive control. The ability to use synthetic positive controls is yet another benefit of real-time PCR.

“How long does it take to get results using the InstantLabs Food Safety test Kits?”

Most Salmonella and E. coli samples can be tested in 12 hours, while most Listeria monocytogenes and Listeria species tests can give results in just 24 hours. This includes enrichment time and testing on the Hunter® device.

“Are your Food Safety Test Kits AOAC Certified?”

Yes, our E. coli O157, Salmonella species, Listeria species, and Listeria monocytogenes Test Kits are all AOAC certified.

Species Identification

“Can the InstantLabs Testing Kits be used on PCR platforms other than the Hunter® Real-Time PCR Instrument?

Yes, the InstantLabs Species Identification Test Kits are available for use on the Hunter®, as well as for use on other PCR instruments.

“How long does it take to get results using the InstantLabs Species Identification Test Kits?”

Whether you are testing for pork, horsemeat, or seafood, our InstantID Test Kits all deliver results in about 2 hours.

Background Information

“What is the difference between testing real -time PCR, isothermal amplification, immunoassays, ELISA, and traditional culture methods?”

We admit, we are biased, but most agree with us: real-time PCR offers the best of all worlds. Traditional culture methods, while accurate, can take days to get results and must be analyzed by a trained microbiologist. More information about the differences between the real-time PCR and traditional culture methods, please check out our blog, Traditional Culture Methods or PCR: Which is Right For You? ELISA and immunassays are also quick, but lack the accuracy that real-time PCR provides. Isothermal amplification, while similar in technology to real-time PCR, is ill-suited for foodborne pathogen testing, as the variability in the specific strains found makes designing the chemistry for isothermal amplification less accurate and less sensitive than real-time PCR. This often results extended enrichment times.

“What is AOAC? What is involved in getting a test AOAC approved?”

AOAC is a globally recognized third party not-for-profit organization charged with developing and maintaining scientific solutions to industry problems based on known standards. When a product has AOAC’s Performance Tested MethodSM stamp of approval, you know that product has been rigorously tested and performs as well as or better than international standard testing methods.