Publisher’s Platform: Apply Now for the Dave Theno Food Security Fellowship 2022-2023

The scholarship program is a partnership with the Michigan State University Online Food Security Program. The Fellow will live in Chicago and work with STOP Foodborne Illness while completing a 12-credit online food safety certificate with Michigan State University. The scholarship includes benefits, salary, and tuition. The program cannot sponsor international students.

We were proud to donate $100,000 to start the scholarship.

Dave passed away in 2017. In 2013 I wrote a blog post about “Why I love my job”. It’s ironic how closely my work and life over the past 25 years has been tied to Dave Theno. I will miss the occasions when we shared a good meal—Dave with a rare steak and mine well done—with always a very good bottle of wine. His humanity and leadership will be missed by all of us.

Here is the article I wrote in 2013:

A few months ago, the WSBA asked me to write something about my practice and my life as a lawyer. The request was something like this:

Mr Marler, I noticed that you are a (“the” – I must admit I added that) preeminent litigant in food poisoning cases in our state (well, actually the “world” – I have to admit I added that too). Our members would like an article from you describing a significant case or client that has affected you, or a description of what it is like to practice in your area of ​​law.

I’ve thought a lot about the demand and my 20+ years of practice, and the fact that I might just be on the decline of a job that I really love. In a not so often quite moment, I thought about the beginning of what has become both my passion and my job. Honestly, it has very little to do with being a lawyer.

I had just turned 35 and was only five years out of law school, I was a young lawyer in a job that seemed pretty hopeless, and then my world changed.

Lauren Beth Rudolph died on December 28, 1992 in her mother’s arms due to complications from E. coli O157:H7 infection – hemolytic uremic syndrome – also known as acute kidney failure. She was only 6 years, 10 months and 10 days old when she died. The autopsy described his perforated intestine as having the consistency of “jelly”. His death, the deaths of three other children and the illnesses of 600 others were ultimately linked to an E. coli O157:H7 contaminated hamburger produced by Von’s and served undercooked at Jack in the Box restaurants on the West Coast at the end of 1992 and in January. 1993. I propelled myself to the front of the pack of lawyers. Roni Rudolph, Lauren’s mom, whom I’ve known for almost 20 years.

Dave Theno became head of food safety for Jack in the Box shortly after the 1992-93 outbreak. I, too, have known Dave for 20 years, mostly because I spent several days deposing (he would say – grilling/torturing) him during the multi-year, multi-state litigation. However, a decade after spending so much quality time (for me anyway) with him, I only recently learned an important fact about Dave – a fact that made me admire him even more – one that I think every corporate food safety leader, or position of authority, should emulate.

Last year, Dave and I shared the stage at the Nation Meat Association’s (NMA) annual “Meating” in Tampa as a pair of keynote speakers. The NMA is an association representing meat processors, suppliers and exporters. Dave, spoke just before me and was rightly hailed as someone who takes food safety to heart. However, it was her story about Lauren Rudolph and her relationship with Roni that physically struck me.

Dave spoke to the silent audience about Lauren’s death. He too knew the same autopsy report. Dave told the audience that Lauren’s death and his friendship with Roni also changed him physically. He told us he’s carried a photo of Lauren in his briefcase every day since he took the job at Jack in the Box. He told us that whenever he needed to make a food safety decision – who to choose as a supplier, what certain specs should be – he would pull out Lauren’s picture and ask, “What is Lauren want me to do?”

I thought about the power of this image. The thought of a senior executive in any company holding a photo of a dead child seeking advice to avoid the next possible illness or death is staggering, but entirely appropriate.

I kissed Dave and we promised to meet again – someday, someday.

Shortly after leaving Tampa, I spent time with a family in South Carolina whose 4-year-old ate cookie dough contaminated with E. coli O157:H7 and suffered months of hospitalizations, weeks of dialysis and seizures. She faces a lifetime of complications despite Food and Drug Administration monitoring of the food she consumed.

After leaving South Carolina, I headed to Cleveland, Ohio, where I sat at the kitchen table with a family who lost their only daughter, Abby, to an infection. to E. coli O157:H7 from meat inspected by the United States Department of Agriculture. Safety inspection services.

Neither the head of either agency, nor the president of either company, whose product cost one life and nearly the other, ever visited to either family, and that’s a shame.

In 20 years of lawsuits, in 20 years with Lauren’s or Abby’s family, I’ve changed. I see the world much differently than most do now.

If I had any advice for corporate or government leaders – run your departments like Dave ran food safety at Jack in the Box. Go meet the families Dave and I met. Sit at their kitchen tables. Go into their child’s hospital room and see more tubes and wires than you can count. Understand what these people went through though. Take their stories to your heart.

It’s hard, very hard, but it will give you a real reason to do your job and to love it.

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