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 Ictalurid 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.                    

“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,” says 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.”

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.