Food safety icon David M. Theno, 66, was hit by a large wave Monday while swimming with his grandson near Hulopoʻe Beach fronting Hawaii’s  Four Seasons Resort Lānaʻi.  Local firefighters responded to a report of a man being  pulled from the ocean at 1:29 p.m. on Monday, June 19, 2017.

Lānaʻi (File photo by Wendy Osher)

Theno was pulled from the ocean by bystanders who attempted to resuscitate him.

Firefighters arrived on the scene at 1:44 p.m. and continued CPR until paramedics arrived and began advanced life support measures.

Maui Fire Services Chief Edward Taomoto said witnesses reported the man did not reappear after the wave passed.  Bystanders eventually spotted him floating face down in the water. Bystanders took him to shore and immediately started CPR.

Theno, the man who saved Jack in the Box and came to be recognized throughout the world for his leadership in food safety, was pronounced dead at the scene.

At the time of his death, Theno was staying at a residence on Lānaʻi and had gone swimming with his grandson.

“They were coming out and he was knocked down by a large wave and didn’t get up,” Theno’s sister Nancy said in a email to a family friend. “They got him out immediately. A doctor was there and they tried to revive him. But it was too late. We don’t know what happened and so they will be doing an autopsy tomorrow.”

“He was a remarkable man who made the world a safer place. As a brother, he was amazingly awesome and I don’t know what I will do without him. My heart is broken.”

It’s likely that the family will hold a memorial service in about three weeks in the San Diego area. Theno’s company, Gray Dog Partners Inc., is based on Del Mar, CA. He been CEO for the food safety consulting business since 2009.

Dave Theno
Dave Theno

Theno was senior vice president and chief food safety officer for Jack-in-the-Box, the San Diego fast food chain that was implicated in the massive and deadly outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 in 1993. Four deaths and hundreds of illnesses were blamed on the burger chain that some said would not survive.

Top management made an early decision to give Theno complete authority over food safety. He implemented a comprehensive Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) plan and then required a finished product testing protocol, test and hold, that initially irked others in the meat industry before it was almost universally adopted.

Theno remained with Jack in the Box for almost 16 years. When he left for Gray Dog, he took on being chief global food safety and quality officer for Milford, CT-based Subway resturant chain. Before he joined Jack-in-the- Box, his Theno & Associates Inc. did food safety and quality management consulting for such companies as Foster Farms, Kellogg’s, Armour Food Co. and Peter Eckrich & Sons Inc.

Theno earned a bachelor’s degree in zoology and science journalism from Iowa State University and master’s and doctoral degrees in food microbiology and animal sciences from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Theno’s leadership in responding to the 1993 outbreak and challenge of E. coli O157:H7 has been recognized by numerous scientific and industry organizations.

Theno was also actively involved in numerous food industry and scientific organizations, most recently receiving lifetime achievement award at the Food Safety Summit as part of the annual NSF Food Safety Innovation awards.

Other honors and awards earn by Theno include recognition from the American Association of Food Hygiene Veterinarians, American Meat Science Association, International Association of Food Protection, International Meat & Poultry HACCP Alliance, Institute of Food Technologists, National Advisory Committee on Meat & Poultry Inspection, National Advisory Committee for Microbiological Criteria for Foods (1989 – 1994), National Cattlemen’s Beef Association’s Beef Industry Food Safety Council (BIFSCo), National Meat Association (and its predecessor, the Western States Meat Association), and the Blue Ribbon Task Force for Solving the E. Coli O157:H7 Problem, sponsored by the National Livestock & Meat Board.

In 2004, Jack in the Box was awarded the prestigious Black Pearl Award by the International Association of Food Protection. Personally, Theno received the Innovator of the Year Award from Nation’s Restaurant News in 2000, and the California Environmental Health Association’s Mark Nottingham Award in 1997 for “recognizable and significant contributions in the field of environmental health.” Also in 1997, Nation’s Restaurant News named Theno one of its “Top 50 Players” for his leadership in defining a new standard for foodservice safety procedures.

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