Lauren Beth Rudolph died on December 28, 1992 in her mother’s arms due to complications of an E. coli O157:H7 infection – Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome. She was only 6 years, 10 months, and 10 days old when she died. Her death, the deaths of three other children, and the sicknesses of 600 others, were eventually linked to E. coli O157:H7 tainted hamburger produced by Von’s and served at Jack in the Box restaurants on the West Coast during late 1992 and January 1993. Roni Rudolph, Lauren’s mom, I have known for 20 years. Dave Theno became head of Jack in the Box’s food safety shortly after the outbreak. I too have known Dave for two decades. However, I only learned a few years ago a significant fact about Dave – one that made me admire him even more – one that I think all leaders in corporate food safety should emulate. Dave and I shared the stage at the National Meat Association annual convention a few years ago. The NMA is an association representing meat processors, suppliers, and exporters. Dave, spoke just before I did and was rightly lauded as someone who takes food safety to heart. However, it was his story about Lauren Rudolph and his relationship with Roni that struck me. Dave told the quiet audience about Lauren’s death. Dave also told us that the death of Lauren and his friendship with Roni had changed him. He told us all that he carried a picture of Lauren in his brief case everyday since he took the job at Jack in the Box. He told us that every time he needed to make a food safety decision – who to pick as a supplier, what certain specifications should be – he took out Lauren’s picture and asked, “What would Lauren want me to do?” I thought how powerful that image was. The thought of a senior executive holding the picture of a dead child seeking guidance to avoid the next possible illness or death is stunning, but completely appropriate. Read Lauren’s story in the first chapter of  “Poisoned” The true story of the deadly E. coli outbreak that changed the way Americans eat.

  • coffeeguy01

    Bill, Happy Holidays! 

    Thanks for reminding us (once again) about what’s important.  For those of us serving as Food Safety Professionals within the industry, we CANNOT hear this message frequently enough.  I continuously repeat it to my team and emphasize, “People over Profits” period, end of story.  Keep up the fight, implementation of FSMA cannot happen soon enough.


  • WriterSub

    I have been thinking about little Lauren Beth Rudolph in the ”Chew on This” book, and its heartbreaking. Such a tiny kid had 3 heart attacks and died in her mother’s arms. Died!
    Death is such a terrible thing. Tomorrow will never come again. You will never see the sun again. Ever read the book, ”Death be Not Proud”? Well, the title says it all. Death is not the happiest thing on earth, but there are worse things.
    I can imagine how terrible her mother must feel. I mean, can you imagine, someone that you love so much to be gone? Like that? And before they even have a chance to really live? Think about it, in a couple years Lauren would’ve graduated and got a job. She would have gotten a nice life, with a husband, maybe. That young face would get a chance.
    I’ll admit it. I was crying afterwards. I locked myself in the bathroom, and the horrifying scene of a young child, collapsing into her mother’s arms, while her mother is probably wailing in shock, hurt, and anger, just replayed in my mind. I know, it sounds like this is a movie, where people just act dramatic over small things, but this is not a small thing.Her mother probably fell anger at those careless people, who choose wealth, over the lives of people.
    . I showed my mother this, and she raised her eyebrows, and said, ”Three heart attacks? For a 6 year old? That’s outrageous!’. We all really feel strongly about this, and I want to do something about it.Then I read this article, and it was so touching! I sent this to my teacher, and I also sent her another email about Lauren’s situation.