June 1, 2015

Test will help protect U.S. catfish farmers from mislabeled imports and consumers from seafood fraud

  • Food Fraud
  • News

By InstantLabs

Test will help protect U.S. catfish farmers from mislabeled imports and consumers from seafood fraud

BALTIMORE, MD – June 1, 2015. InstantLabs will co-develop and commercialize a new Ictalurid catfish species identification test as part of a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). In accordance with U.S. Farm Bill legislation, only members of the Ictaluridae family can be legally marketed as catfish within the United States.

InstantLabs’ DNA-based technology will provide accurate species verification in hours at the point-of need rather than requiring samples be sent to centralized labs for sequencing, which often leads to a delay of one to two weeks. The FDA-InstantLabs CRADA will provide the tools needed by seafood wholesalers and processors, as well as government regulators, to ensure that catfish can be identified quickly and accurately.

U.S. catfish have ranked among the top eight domestically consumed seafoods for the past several years, but consumption has fallen as a result of the increasing sales of Pangasiidae fish mislabeled as catfish. The Pangasiid fish family farmed in Southeast Asia is often misrepresented as the more expensive U.S. catfish, costing consumers millions of dollars. Since 2011, per capita Pangasiid consumption has increased more rapidly than U.S. catfish, according to a March 23, 2015 Wall Street Journal article.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reports that Pangasiid frozen fillets shipped to the U.S. rose to 215 million pounds in 2014, up from 7 million pounds in 2004. The imports are now valued at more than $300 million a year, according to the agency. U.S. farm-raised catfish production has fallen by nearly 50 percent from 630 million pounds in 2004 to 340 million pounds in 2012, the most recent data available.

“InstantLabs’ technology offers a rapid, reliable solution to the increasing challenges of protecting U.S-produced catfish from cheaper imports that may not meet US production standards,” said Steven Guterman, CEO of InstantLabs. “The ability to confirm the species of a fish fillet in under 2 hours is a game changer for the industry.”

InstantLabs has launched a series of DNA-based seafood identification tests under the InstantID™ brand that offer verification for Atlantic Blue Crab (Callinectes sapidus) as well as Atlantic (Salmo salar) and Coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch). Additional salmon assays are planned for release in 2015. The DNA-based seafood tests are developed through a partnership with the University of Guelph, one of the leading food science universities in the world.

InstantLabs’ Hunter® Real-Time PCR instrument combines accuracy, speed, and ease-of-operation into a compact portable system. The system can be used for both species identification and food pathogen detection, delivering results quickly, thereby allowing seamless integration into food industry firms’ processes and facilities.

ABOUT INSTANTLABS: InstantLabs, a molecular diagnostic device company, developed and markets the Hunter® Real-Time PCR system, a fully-integrated, easy-to-use, portable and affordable real-time polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) platform for rapid, accurate DNA detection. InstantLabs Medical Diagnostics Corp., the legal entity, offers the Hunter® system for use with several foodborne pathogen test kits as well as a growing number of species identification test kits for the global food market. InstantLabs has also developed a line of test kits designed to detect organisms implicated in microbiologically induced corrosion (MIC) in conjunction with industrial partners. The Hunter® system is especially well suited for use at points-of-need to detect and analyze a wide variety of common and problematic analytes. Founded in 2008, InstantLabs is located in Baltimore, MD.

ABOUT THE FDA: an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, THE Food and Drug Administration protects the public health by helping to ensure the safety, effectiveness, and security of human and veterinary drugs, vaccines and other biological products for human use, and medical devices. The agency also is responsible for helping to ensure the safety and security of our nation’s food supply, cosmetics, dietary supplements, products that give off electronic radiation, and for regulating tobacco products.

ABOUT THE UNIVERSITY OF GUELPH: Acknowledged as one of the leading public research universities, the University has 39 Canada Research chairs in natural sciences, energy, health services and social sciences. With a commitment to student learning and innovative research, University leaders are dedicated to cultivating the essentials for our quality of life – water, food, environment, animal and human health, community, commerce, culture and learning. The University community also shares a profound sense of social responsibility, an obligation to address global issues and a concern for international development. Learn more at