St. Patrick’s Day is the deadline to apply for the Dave Theno Food Safety Fellowship, which provides an undergraduate from a U.S. Land Grant University a $25,000 salary for a year of work with the non-profit group Stop Foodborne Illness.

Applicants for the 2019-20 fellowship must have graduated between 2016 and 2019 with a food science or animal science bachelors degree. Preference will be given to those seeking a career in food industry or food regulation. In addition to the fellowship salary, the student completes a 12-credit online Food Safety Certificate program with Michigan State University. 

Emily Forauer, a University of Connecticut graduate with one bachelor’s degree in pathobiology and another in ecology and evolutionary biology, will be wrapping up her time as the first Dave Theno Fellow this summer. Stop Foodborne Illness awarded Forauer the inaugural fellowship in July 2018 at the annual conference of the International Association for Food Protection. 

“Every day I’m surprised at what I’m able to do in this position,” Forauer said in an announcement about this year’s application deadline. “As a student, I think it’s really valuable that I’m participating in the Safe Food Coalition, which has meetings with amazingly impressive people from CDC and FSIS, not to mention the members of the coalition from organizations such as the Consumer Federation of America and the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

“I have also gotten to travel all over the country, to conferences, expos, and I even met the food safety team for the national restaurant chain Jack in the Box. That was really awe-inspiring, my being there as a result of the deep connections between Stop and Dave Theno, who many know as the man who saved Jack in the Box.

“This fellowship was named for Dave, who was always working to create safer ways for food to be produced with a scientific approach while also knowing he worked for people, especially the children, who he wanted to protect. This fellowship is the perfect environment for a student to gain a wider perspective on food safety and really feel like the work you do matters.”

Theno was the scientist hired as senior vice president and chief food safety officer for Jack-in-the-Box in 1993 as the fast food chain was reeling from a massive and deadly outbreak of E. coli O157:H7. 

Four children died in the 1992-93 outbreak, which saw more than 600 victims confirmed infected with E. coli O157:H7 from undercooked hamburgers. Most of the victims were young children. Many of them were left with serious, lifelong complications requiring ongoing medical treatment. 

One of the victims was 9-year-old Lauren Beth Rudolph. She died in her mother’s arms on Dec. 28, 1992. Theno carried a photo of Lauren Beth in his wallet from 1993 until he died in 2017. A rouge wave hit and killed him while he was swimming with his grandson in Hawaii. 

Lauren Beth Rudolph

Theno rarely missed an opportunity to share Lauren’s story and her photo with people in the food industry. He said every time he needed to make a food safety decision — who to pick as a supplier, what food safety specifications should be, etc., — he took out Lauren’s picture and asked: “What would Lauren want me to do?”

Shortly after hiring Theno in 1993, top management at the fast food chain made the decision to give him complete authority over food safety. He developed and implemented a comprehensive Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) plan. He 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. 

 About the fellowship
The fellow will:

  • Work in the Stop Foodborne Illness office 35 hours a week.
  • Complete two projects defined by the Stop and MSU Online Food Safety Directors.
  • Familiarize themselves with stories on the Honor Wall at
  • Participate in weekly Safe Food Coalition calls; with possible travel to Washington, DC.
  • Assist Community Coordinator in identified initiatives.
  • Staff Stop’s booth (with others) at conferences, including the 2020 International Association for Food Protection conference in Cleveland, OH.
  • Attend Creating a Food Safety Culture Executive Education at MSU, May, 2020.
  • Talk with the Stop Executive Director and the MSU OFS Director (ongoing) regarding progress of the Fellowship.
  • Finish the MSU Food Safety Certificate coursework (12 credits).

To apply, each student must send (or have sent for them):

  • A completed application packet with the application form and official transcripts from their degree granting university.
  • A statement of intent outlining their background, professional interests, their reason for wanting this fellowship, and how they believe it will help their future career.
  • Three letters of recommendation, two academic and one personal, to be sub mitted no later than March 31, 2019.

The application form is available at: pdf Send application and supplemental materials to Stanley Rutledge:, or mail them to Stop Foodborne Illness, 4809 N. Ravenswood Ave, #214 Chicago, IL 60640.

(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)