On June 19, the food industry lost a food-safety icon. Dave Theno, 66, unexpectedly died after being struck by a large wave while snorkeling with his grandson in Hawaii.
During the Jack-in-the-Box E. coli O157:H7 outbreak in 1993, Dave served as the senior vice president and chief food safety officer for the restaurant chain. Following the outbreak, Dave overhauled the company’s food safety systems, developing and implementing robust cutting-edge food-safety programs that would eventually be adopted industry-wide. More recently, because of his continuing and substantial contributions to food safety, Dave was inducted into the Meat Industry Hall of Fame.
I knew Dave as a friend, hired him to help my clients improve their own food-safety systems, retained him as an expert in high-profile litigation, and even took his deposition when he served as an expert witness for my adversaries. Dave was at all times a helpful, humble and honest human being.
When I think about each of the food-safety professionals currently serving the industry and advancing the greater cause of food safety, I know countless professionals were influenced at some point in their careers by Dave. His counsel and inspiration helped them consistently make the right decisions in difficult situations.
Dave was also a role model for me. When faced with a difficult food-safety decision, I often find myself asking two questions: First, what would 12 jurors think? And, second, what would Dave Theno do? Not surprisingly, whenever I ask myself those two questions, I always reach the same answer.
Under the leadership of Dave, and the food-safety professionals who have been inspired by his accomplishments, the overall safety of our food supply has reached levels never before achieved. There can be no doubt that Dave’s tireless and unrelenting contributions to food safety have prevented countless outbreaks and saved countless lives.
When it comes to food safety, we still have a lot of work to do. Fortunately, we are off to a great start, thanks in no small part to Dave. The world is a much better place because he was here.
Moving forward, continue to follow in Dave’s footsteps. Embrace and continue to carry forward Dave’s mantra of always (and only) doing the right thing for the right reasons.
Thank you, David Theno. Your legacy will never be forgotten. NP