Testimony of Ricky Simpson, Son of Foodborne Illness Victim Linda Rivera

Testimony of Ricky Simpson, Son of Foodborne Illness Victim Linda Rivera

On Nov. 13, Ricky Simpson testified before the U.S. Food and Drug Administration about the death of his mother, who contracted an E. coli infection from tainted cookie dough in 2009.

Good morning. My name is Richard Simpson, and I am the youngest of Linda Rivera’s children. 

The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) is deeply personal to my family and me. My mom, Linda Rivera, was diagnosed with an E. coli 0157:H7 infection on May 8, 2009.  Our lives were changed forever.  In the fall of 2009, Senator Harry Reid called us and wrote to us, his constituents, and promised that he would bringcomprehensive food safety reform legislation to the Senate floor.  

In July 2013, my mother Linda Rivera died from complications from the E. coli infection and the resulting hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS).  

Seven days after eating cookie dough, her kidneys stopped functioning and she went into septic shock.  Even after emergency surgery to remove part of her colon and her gallbladder, my mother continued to fight.  This foodborne pathogen attacked her liver and then her brain.  She suffered a stroke and lost her ability to speak. She was on dialysis for 60 days and had to endure plasmapheresis for two weeks. 

Growing up, my mother was as active as any parent in the neighborhood.  For my siblings and me, she was there at every soccer game, wrestling match, and track meet.  Full of energy, she devoted herself to us and worked as a teacher’s aide at our high school.  During her more than two years in the hospital, there were moments of hope—and of despair.  She fought very hard.  We knew she didn’t want to give up. 

I’m proud that my mother was still with us when FSMA become law.  I truly do not believe we would be standing in this room today if not for her.  It took my mother’s story and ones like hers to spur members of Congress to finally act on this landmark piece of legislation.  The safeguards outlined in the preventive control proposals are designed to prevent another son like me from losing his mother—all because of something she ate. As provided for in the supplemental proposals, I believe that ingredient and product testing – along with environmental monitoring -- can save lives.  If FDA is to put the public health first, the proposed language on testing and monitoring must be included in the final rule.

Some progress has been made in improving food safety since my mother’s death, but the full promise of FSMA has yet to be fulfilled.  Until we do everything in our power to safeguard our food supply, which begins with a fully implemented and strongly enforced FSMA, there is still work to be done.