Saturday, September 20, 2008

Live from the NRN Food Safety Symposium

Bacteria must be high-fiving and hooting with delight. Dave Theno, the food-safety guru who was brought in by Jack in the Box in the midst of the chain’s E. coli crisis to right the situation, has just noted that he’s retiring. His presentation, on where the restaurant industry is heading food-safety-wise, underscores what an arch-nemesis the pathogens are about to lose.

Indeed, Theno has just invited the audience of 40 or so chain food-safety experts to contact him if they’re getting pushback from upper-level executives about investing in food safety.

“You got a CEO who doesn’t get it? Say, ‘I got a guy you’ve gotta talk to.’ Set it up, and I’ll call the guy,” Theno said. “And afterward, he’s going to like you a lot more, because I’m a real asshole to talk with, so you’ll look a lot better.”

Theno ended his presentation by recounting how he met a woman from Safe Tables Our Priority, whose six-year-old daughter was the first child to die in the Jack in the Box E. coli crisis in the early 1990s. Theno recounted how the woman promised her lost daughter that she would press for reforms on the girl’s behalf. Theno said he saw the girl as his “personal angel” in helping him push for safer foods.

If you know someone in food safety, tell them or give them a six-year-old. Trust me, it’ll get a lot easier.

"Take home your own six-year-old," he said.

I’m writing this from Nation’s Restaurant News’ Food Safety Symposium in Charlotte, N.C. I’ll be posting updates here throughout the conference, hopefully on a near-live basis.

So stay tuned. And contact me if you’re a chain restaurant executive who’d like to reach Theno.

1 comment:

  1. Passion about food safety, through the faces of victims of foodborne illness and those of your own family, is what reaches a person's heart to do the right thing when no one is looking.