Speeches & Testimony

Food Safety Victim Testimony: Mike Walters

In February 2013, Mike Walters delivered the following testimony at a public meeting held by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in Washington, DC. The meeting was one of a series organized to receive comments on rules that FDA is proposing to implement the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, or FSMA.


walters-100My name is Mike Walters from Foxfield, Colorado. My wife Lisa and I had just celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary when I started to feel a bit sluggish. From there came the fever and occasional nausea. Neither of us thought much of it. We were doing some hiking around Yellowstone and just figured all the activity was taking its toll. It was when I, a typically good eater, started losing my appetite that my wife started asking questions. I couldn't do much of the two-day drive home. But maybe it was just vacation fatigue.

It got to the point that I couldn't take it anymore and went to my primary care doctor. The fever and nausea lingered. My doctor just figured it was a common sinus infection. With antibiotics in hand, I returned to work.

A couple days later, I wasn't feeling better. I called my doctor who thought maybe my sickness was viral and recommended I stop taking the medication. Still feeling sick, I had to leave work after only a few hours. The following morning, our daughter called saying she had seen a recall notice online regarding the frozen berry mix we used to make our morning smoothies.

On our doctor's advice we went to the emergency room to be tested for Hepatitis A. When my results came back positive, I contacted my employer and prepared for the worst sickness I have had. Two days later my condition worsened and I had to return to the emergency room. I spent the next four days in the hospital having blood drawn so doctors could determine the extent of the damage to my body.

At the beginning of this year, I underwent successful quadruple bypass surgery. My recovery was derailed all because I ate a processed product that included contaminated imported pomegranate seeds. Unable to follow my doctor's original orders has been very troubling for both my wife and me. Days are often spent waiting anxiously for doctors' phone calls regarding the results of blood tests.

Lisa has done most of the cooking, cleaning, shopping, household chores, and whatever else needs to be done to make it possible for me to rest and recover. All the while she is doing her best to fulfill her obligation to her employer. She does not get paid for time away from work and has missed considerable time caring for me. She has also developed problems sleeping and expresses concern over her inability to maintain her workload at her job. We are both concerned.

This uncertainty has caused my wife and me to rethink our retirement plans and look more towards the quality rather than the quantity of time that lies ahead. I just turned 60 years old and had every reason to believe that I could look forward to a long and healthy future. Now, I must admit, I am not as confident.

The thought that this condition might continue for weeks or possibly months to come is overwhelming, and so we simply focus on the day-to-day. It would be encouraging, however, to know that fewer people, because of a strong food import safety rule, will have to ask themselves the same questions my wife and I have. Please finalize the proposed Food Safety Modernization Act regulations quickly and make sure they are fully enforced.