Interview with Michael Lucas, CEO, Frequentz
A recent cyclospora outbreak has sickened more than 500 people in 18 states, with some cases linked to salad mix imported from Mexico. While cyclospora contamination is uncommon in the U.S., the outbreak highlights the importance of using traceability to identify pathogenic contamination in food products early in order to protect brand reputation and prevent illness. Food Manufacturing spoke with Michael Lucas of Frequentz about the outbreak and the steps food manufacturers can take to help prevent foodborne illness outbreaks.
Q: How common is cyclospora in U.S. food products, and which products are most at risk?
A: Cyclospora is a parasite commonly found in fresh produce or drinking water. Outbreaks cases aren’t as frequent in the U.S. given that the parasite grows in tropical or subtropical climates; however, there is always a risk of cyclospora contamination with imported products.
Q: How does a food product become contaminated with cyclospora?
A: Cyclospora is typically found in food or drinking water that has been contaminated with fecal matter. Contaminated water, for example, might unknowingly be used to water the plants and vegetables before it’s harvested and packaged, which is one way it may end up in our food. Cyclospora thrives in tropical or subtropical environments, making the population in those areas more susceptible to contamination and illness. However, the contamination can occur at various stages of the food process from farming to packaging, shipping and distributing. So it’s critical that traceability technology is implemented from the onset to monitor the food supply chain.