The sensitivity, speed and convenience of chemiluminescent (CL) and bioluminescent (BL) immunoassays and probe assays have led to a diverse range of applications for these technologies, mainly in the clinical laboratory. These methods are now being explored by the food and pharmaceutical industries. Demanding detection limits and the complexity of sample preparation for food and pharmaceutical analyses present daunting challenges for the analyst. Immunoassay and nucleic acid amplification technologies have been applied to food testing, but these have mostly favoured non-luminescent endpoints. Food assays with CL or BL endpoints are now emerging, e.g., Clostridium botulinum type A detection using a CL immunosorbent assay; Salmonella and Zygosaccharomyces detection using a combination of PCR and CL detection. The analytical challenges posed by the pharmaceutical industry include testing for contaminants in raw materials and drug products, and drug discovery. The sensitivity and rapid signal acquisition characteristics of CL and BL are advantageous for the high throughput, massively parallel testing of micro-sized samples demanded in drug discovery. Current progress and the prospects for CL and BL immunoassay and nucleic acid technologies in this and other pharmaceutical and food applications is reviewed.