Seventeen months since the first illnesses appeared in March 2013, the Foster Farms-linked Salmonella outbreak has been declared over by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The final tally of confirmed illnesses came in at 634 people in 29 states and Puerto Rico. Of those cases, at least 241 people (38 percent) were hospitalized. Illnesses connected to the California-based poultry producer hit its home state the hardest, with 490 cases counted in California alone. Other states with numerous cases included Arizona (25 cases), Washington (20) and Oregon (17). CDC officials told Food Safety News that the number of Salmonella cases in the affected states has returned to the normal rate for this time of year. Along with that, government tests on retail Foster Farms chicken meat have not shown evidence of the outbreak strains for several months now, said Dr. Matthew Wise, outbreak response team lead for the CDC’s Division of Foodborne, Waterborne, and Environmental Diseases. In the time since the outbreak began, the U.S. Department of Agriculture asked Foster Farms to implement additional safety measures in its production plants to mitigate Salmonella contamination, but the agency did not have the legal authority to shut the plants down based on Salmonella contamination. Foster Farms did implement the requested safety measures. “A lot of work has been done on the part of Foster Farms and the USDA to fix the problem,” Wise said. “We’re confident that positive changes have occurred.” Wise added that, according to recent internal testing at Foster Farms, Salmonella levels on the company’s chicken products have seen “a pretty significant decline.” From June 2012 to April 2013, Foster Farms chicken was implicated in another outbreak that sickened 134 people, predominantly in Washington and Oregon. CDC estimates that, for every one confirmed case of Salmonella, another 29 go unreported. However, the most severe cases are typically those that end up being detected. Salmonella is commonly found on raw poultry products, and Salmonella from poultry is assumed to cause a baseline level of illnesses continually. The outbreak linked to Foster Farms chicken elevated illness numbers above that baseline and prompted an investigation first announced publicly in October 2013. Wise said that the agency continually monitors for new illnesses that might connect back to an outbreak like the one with Foster Farms. “It’s been a long, complicated investigation into an unfortunate outbreak, but hopefully we’ve all learned something from it,” he said. Graphics courtesy of CDC.