Richard Simpson says he doesn’t want others to have to suffer the pain he endured, watching his mom struggle with illness for four years before she died in 2013.
Speaking at a Food and Drug Administration hearing Thursday, Simpson, 22 of Las Vegas, told authorities they should update the FDA's Food Safety Modernization Act. Doing so, he said, could help prevent the spread of E. coli, the sometimes deadly bacteria that Simpson says killed his mom, Linda Rivera.
Her story made headlines in 2009 when she was hospitalized after eating uncooked Nestle cookie dough that was tainted with a dangerous strain of the bacteria. She was 57 at the time.
The infection eventually shutdown her kidneys and her liver, according to The Washington Post. She regained some vital function but suffered greatly. CNN followed her story and reported on her trials as she struggled in therapy and numerous treatments.
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Simpson said his mom never fully recovered.
“There were moments of hope — and of despair,” he said Thursday. “She fought very hard. We knew she didn't want to give up.”
Rivera died July 2013, just a little more than four years after she was initially infected.
“Eventually, her body just couldn't take it,” her attorney and friend, Bill Marler, told ABC News.
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Marler handled Rivera’s 2009 claim against Nestle, which was settled for an undisclosed amount.
When news of Rivera’s infection broke over five years ago, Nestle recalled the product and shutdown their processing plant for a time to conduct testing. When production of the cookie dough resumed, the product carried a warning that it should not be eaten raw.
The company released a statement recently, responding to news of Rivera’s death and explaining the changes it made in response to the case.
“The fact that our product was implicated in Linda Rivera’s 2009 illness and tragic passing was obviously of grave concern to all of us at Nestle,” the statement read. “Since then, we have implemented more stringent testing and inspection of raw materials and finished product to ensure the product meets our high quality standard. … We continue to emphasize that the cookie dough should be consumed only after baking and not eaten raw.”
One expert who spoke to ABC, Dr. William Schaffner, a professor at the Vanderbilt School of Medicine, said the bacteria isn’t what really killed Rivera.
“She never really recovered completely from her initial illness, and then developed a series of medical complications,” he said.
Nevertheless, Simpson told the panel he chose testify and fight for stricter regulations so another son wouldn’t also have to tell the story of losing his own mother.
“She wanted as much peace in this world as possible,” Simpson said of his mom. “I feel like I was put here in this position, for some reason, to help other people.”