Title:
NOVEL FOOD CONTAINER ASSEMBLY
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
The present invention is food container assembly comprising, a container having a food compartment, a semi-flexible sheet fitted within the container, a doily attached to one edge of the semi-flexible sheet with the opposite edge attached to the container and one or more moistened towelettes or sanitizing agent sealed within an airtight enclosure affixed to the flexible sheet. The doily is folded in a manner that maintains the doily under the flexible sheet and away from the food such that when the flexible sheet is withdrawn from the container the doily is extended across an eating or food preparation surface.



Inventors:
Erberich, Patricia N. (La Mesa, CA, US)
Application Number:
12/366424
Publication Date:
08/20/2009
Filing Date:
02/05/2009
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
229/407, 206/545
International Classes:
B65D1/24; A45C11/20; B65D1/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
GRANO, ERNESTO ARTURIO
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
NATH, GOLDBERG & MEYER (Alexandria, VA, US)
Claims:
1. A food container assembly comprising; a container having a sealable food compartment; a semi-flexible sheet fitted within said container; a doily attached to one edge of said semi-flexible sheet and an opposite edge attached to said container said doily folded in a manner that maintains the doily under said flexible sheet and away from said food to be housed in said container such that when the flexible sheet is withdrawn from said container the doily is extended across an eating or food preparation surface; and one or more moistened towelettes or sanitizing agent sealed within an airtight enclosure affixed to said flexible sheet.

2. A food container assembly comprising: a sealable bag having an interior compartment, an exterior surface, an opening end and a means for affixing said container assembly to a container on said exterior surface; a semi-flexible sheet fitted within said interior compartment of said sealable bag; a doily attached to one edge of said semi-flexible sheet and an opposite edge attached to said sealable bag opposite said opening end said doily folded in a manner that when the semi-flexible sheet is withdrawn from said sealable bag the doily is extended across an eating or food preparation surface; and one or more moistened towelettes or sanitizing agent sealed within an airtight enclosure affixed to said semi-flexible sheet.

3. A food container assembly according to claim 1 wherein said scalable food compartment is a sealable bag or box.

4. A food container assembly according to claim 1 wherein said semi-flexible sheet forms the base platform in said sealable food compartment.

5. A food container assembly according to claim 3 wherein said flexible sheet fits within the base of said food compartment box.

6. A food container assembly according to claim 3 wherein said flexible fits within and up against the front side of the food compartment box.

7. A food container assembly according to claim 2 wherein said sealable bag is affixed to a food container.

8. A food container assembly according to claim 7 wherein said sealable bag is affixed within or on the exterior surface of a food container.

9. A food container assembly according to claim 1 further comprising one or more disposable food preparation or consumption implements affixed to said semi-flexible sheet.

10. A food container assembly according to claim 1 further comprising one or more adhesive pads having removable protective covers for affixing items to said semi-flexible sheet.

11. A food container assembly according to claim 2 further comprising one or more disposable food preparation or consumption implements affixed to said semi-flexible sheet.

12. A food container assembly according to claim 2 further comprising one or more adhesive pads having removable protective covers for affixing items to said semi-flexible sheet.

13. A system for providing a clean eating or food preparation surface comprising: A food container for carrying food having a sealable food compartment; a semi-flexible sheet fitted within said food container; a doily attached to one edge of said semi-flexible sheet and an opposite edge attached to said food container said doily folded in a manner that maintains the doily under said flexible sheet and away from food housed in said container such that when the flexible sheet is withdrawn from said container the doily is extended across an eating or food preparation surface; and one or more moistened towelettes or sanitizing agent sealed within an airtight enclosure affixed to said flexible sheet.

14. A system for providing a clean eating surface according to claim 13 further comprising one or more disposable food preparation or consumption implements affixed to said semi-flexible sheet.

15. A system for providing a clean eating surface according to claim 13 further comprising one or more adhesive pads having removable protective covers for affixing items to said semi-flexible sheet.

16. A method for providing a clean eating surface comprising the steps of: providing a food container having a sealable food compartment; affixing within said food container a semi-flexible sheet having a doily attached to one edge of said semi-flexible sheet and an opposite edge attached to said food container said doily folded in a manner that maintains the doily under said flexible sheet and away from food housed in said container such that when the flexible sheet is withdrawn from said container the doily is extended across an eating or food preparation surface; and one or more moistened towelettes or sanitizing agent sealed within an airtight enclosure affixed to said flexible sheet; and extracting said semi-flexible sheet from said food container across said eating or food preparation surface thereby depositing said doily on said eating surface.

17. A method for providing a clean eating surface according to claim 16 further comprising one or more disposable food preparation or consumption implements affixed to said semi-flexible sheet.

18. A method for providing a clean eating or food preparation surface according to claim 16 further comprising one or more adhesive pads having removable protective covers for affixing items to said semi-flexible sheet.

19. A method for providing a clean eating or food preparation surface comprising the steps of: providing a food container for housing food having affixed within or on its surface a container assembly comprising a sealable bag having an interior compartment, an exterior surface, and an opening end; a semi-flexible sheet fitted within said interior compartment of said sealable bag; a doily attached to one edge of said semi-flexible sheet and an opposite edge attached to said sealable bag opposite said opening end said doily folded in a manner that when the semi-flexible sheet is withdrawn from said sealable bag the doily is extended across an eating or food preparation surface; and one or more moistened towelettes or sanitizing agent sealed within an airtight enclosure affixed to said semi-flexible sheet; and extracting said semi-flexible sheet from said sealable bag across said eating or food preparation surface thereby depositing said doily on said eating surface.

20. A method for providing a clean eating surface according to claim 19 further comprising one or more disposable food preparation or consumption implements affixed to said semi-flexible sheet.

21. A method for providing a clean eating surface according to claim 19 further comprising one or more adhesive pads having removable protective covers for affixing items to said semi-flexible sheet.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application is based on and claims priority to U.S. provisional application Ser. No. 61/065,892 filed on Feb. 15, 2008.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

(1) Field of the Invention

The present invention is a device for providing a clean eating surface that is integral to or separately provided with a food container. More particularly, to an assembly comprising a doily folded in a configuration that when withdrawn from its packaging or from the food container expands or can be expanded on a surface providing a clean eating area.

(2) Description of Related Art

In the convenience food or prepared food industry edible items are packaged to keep them sanitary before eating. Packaging may also be used for a variety of other purposes including maintain temperature and protect the food item from being compressed in a bag containing a number of food items. They are often made of Styrofoam, cardboard or plastic. However, these containers or boxes can be relatively small and are made to fit the item that they are intended to protect such as a hamburger. Other commercial providers use wrappers or bags to encase their food protecting it from contamination as well as to prevent liquids or oils from the food getting on the hands or cloths. These wrappers are generally sufficient to hold the food item they are designed to encase and are too small to provide an effective surface for eating.

Many times these food items in their protective boxes or wrappers are placed in a bag for easy transport by the purchaser. When a clean surface is desired the bag can be torn and expanded to cover a surface. However, this generally does not provide a sufficiently clean surface because the process of tearing the bag deposits undesired bacteria from unclean hands on the eating surface. In addition, if the bag is torn unevenly it can make the surface difficult to use effectively. The use of a napkin in expanded form on a surface also has similar difficulty if the hands are not cleaned before touching the napkin.

Consequently there is a need for a sanitary assembly that provides a clean eating surface for prepared food, a way of cleaning the hands before touching the food and other items necessary for consuming the food.

BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention is a food container assembly comprising; a container having a food compartment; a semi-flexible sheet fitted within the container and a doily attached to one edge of said semi-flexible sheet and an opposite edge attached to said container. The doily is folded in a manner that maintains the doily under the flexible sheet and away from the food housed in the container such that when the flexible sheet is withdrawn from the container the doily is extended across an eating or food preparation surface. The semi-flexible sheet may also have and one or more moistened towelettes or sanitizing agent sealed within an airtight enclosure affixed to its surface.

In one embodiment of this aspect of the invention the sealable food compartment is a sealable bag or box. The semi-flexible sheet may form a base platform in the container, fit within the base or be placed along a side of the sealable box or bag.

In one aspect of the invention the food container may be a sealable bag having an interior compartment, an exterior surface, an opening end and a means for affixing the container assembly to a container on the exterior surface. The container comprises a semi-flexible sheet fitted within the interior compartment of the sealable bag. A doily is attached to one edge of the semi-flexible sheet with the opposite edge attached to the sealable bag opposite the opening end. One or more moistened towelettes or sanitizing agent sealed within an airtight enclosure are affixed to the semi-flexible sheet. The doily is folded in a manner such that when the semi-flexible sheet is withdrawn from the sealable bag the doily is extended across an eating or food preparation surface.

In one embodiment of this aspect of the invention the sealable bag is affixed to, within or on a food container.

In another aspect of the present invention a system for providing a clean eating surface is provided comprising; a food container for carrying food having a sealable food compartment; a semi-flexible sheet fitted within the food container; and a doily attached to one edge of the semi-flexible sheet and an opposite edge attached to the food container. The doily is folded in a manner that maintains the doily under the flexible sheet and away from the food housed in the container such that when the flexible sheet is withdrawn the doily is extended across an eating or food preparation surface. The semi-flexible sheet may have one or more moistened towelettes or sanitizing agent sealed within an airtight enclosure affixed to it surface.

In yet another aspect of the present invention a method for providing a clean eating or food preparation surface is disclosed comprising the steps of; providing a food container having a sealable food compartment; affixing within the food container a semi-flexible sheet having a doily attached to one edge of the semi-flexible sheet and an opposite edge attached to the food container. The doily is folded in a manner that maintains the doily under the flexible sheet and away from the food housed in the container such that when the flexible sheet is withdrawn the doily is extended across an eating or food preparation surface; and one or more moistened towelettes or sanitizing agent sealed within an airtight enclosure affixed to the flexible sheet and extracting the semi-flexible sheet from the food container and depositing the doily on a surface to provide a clean eating or food preparation surface.

In still another aspect of the present invention a method for providing a clean eating or food preparation surface is disclosed comprising the steps of providing a food container for housing food having affixed within or on its surface a container assembly comprising a sealable bag having an interior compartment, an exterior surface, and an opening end; a semi-flexible sheet fitted within the interior compartment of the sealable bag; a doily attached to one edge of the semi-flexible sheet and an opposite edge attached to the sealable bag opposite the opening end the doily folded in a manner that when the semi-flexible sheet is withdrawn from the scalable bag the doily is extended across an eating surface; and one or more moistened towelettes or sanitizing agent sealed within an airtight enclosure affixed to the semi-flexible sheet and extracting the semi-flexible sheet from the sealable bag and depositing the doily on the eating or food preparation surface.

In one embodiment any of these aspects of the present invention the semi-flexible sheet may further comprise one or more disposable food preparation or consumption implements affixed to it surface. In addition, the semi-flexible sheet may further provide one or more adhesive pads having removable protective covers for affixing items to the flexible sheet.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE SEVERAL VIEWS OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a representation of one embodiment of the present invention wherein the food container is a box or carton (A) is a perspective view of the semi-flexible sheet and doily affixed within the front side of the food compartment; (B) shows the removal of the semi-flexible sheet from the food container releasing the doily; and (C) shows the semi-flexible sheet with doily in its fully extended form.

FIG. 2 is a representation of another embodiment of the present invention wherein the food container is a sealable bag (A) is a perspective view of the semi-flexible sheet and doily affixed within the sealable bag; (B) shows the opening of the sealable bag exposing the semi-flexible sheet (C) shows the removal of the semi-flexible sheet from the food container releasing the doily; and (D) shows the semi-flexible sheet with doily in its fully extended form.

FIG. 3 is a representation of another embodiment of the present invention wherein the food container is a bag (A) is a perspective view of the semi-flexible sheet and doily affixed to the exterior of the bag; (B) shows the removal of the semi-flexible sheet from the container holding the invention and extending the doily therefrom; (C) shows the removal of the semi-flexible sheet from the food container releasing the doily; and (D) shows the semi-flexible sheet with doily in its fully extended form.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

Unless defined otherwise, all terms used herein have the same meaning as are commonly understood by one of skill in the art to which this invention belongs. All patents, patent applications and publications referred to throughout the disclosure herein are incorporated by reference in their entirety. In the event that there is a plurality of definitions for a term herein, those in this section prevail.

The term “attached” or “affixed” as used herein refers to any means by which the doily can be connected to the semi-flexible sheet and the food container that prevents detachment. Preferably the doily is attached to these elements by an adhesive.

The present invention is a food container assembly comprising; a container having a food compartment; a semi-flexible sheet fitted within the container and a doily attached to one edge of said semi-flexible sheet and an opposite edge attached to said container. The doily is folded in a manner that maintains the doily under the flexible sheet and away from the food housed in the container such that when the flexible sheet is withdrawn from the container the doily is extended across an eating or food preparation surface. The semi-flexible sheet may also have and one or more moistened towelettes or sanitizing agent sealed within an airtight enclosure affixed to its surface.

Container

The food container assembly 10 of the present invention may be provided for a variety of food packaging enclosures including soft sided flexible bag containers 20 or containers having semi-rigid walls 18. Soft-sided flexible bags 20 include the commonly used paper or plastic bags having an opening on one end for receiving food items (FIG. 3). This also includes vacuum sealed or cellophane sealed containers that hold a variety of prepackaged food items such as cheese and crackers, fruit and vegetables, sandwiches and the like (FIG. 2). The semi-rigid containers 18 include those used by the convenience food industry made of cardboard or Styrofoam (FIG. 1). One particularly common type of fast food container are those used for housing hamburgers that have an upper and lower portions hinged together such that when in the closed conformation form an enclosure for housing prepared food items.

The size of the containers in which the present device may be utilized may vary depending on the size or amount of food they are intended to contain. For example, a soft-sided flexible bag 20 made of plastic containing two cupcakes may be provided with the food container assembly of the present invention (see FIG. 2). In addition, a semi-rigid box 18 made of cardboard for a dozen donuts may have the device of the present invention secured on the front interior side of the container (FIG. 3). Correspondingly, the size of the clean surface desired will depend on the amount of size of the food provided in the container. For a plastic bag containing two cupcakes a doily sufficient to provide a lap sized area may be sufficient, for example an area of about one to about two square feet. However, for a cardboard box containing a dozen donuts a surface that covers a small tabletop may be sufficient, for example about four to about nine square feet.

The food container assembly 10 of the present invention may be provided in a variety of enclosures but is preferably in a sanitary sealed package that may be affixed to or within a food container. The enclosure preferably has an easy access top or end that allows the semi-flexible sheet 12 to be removed extending the doily 14 over the eating surface. In another preferred configuration the assembly is housed in a pocket wherein the semi-flexible sheet 12 is easily accessible allowing it to be drawn from the pocket extending the doily 14 over the eating surface (see FIG. 1). In yet another configuration the semi-flexible sheet 12 acts as a semi-rigid base of the food container 18 wherein the top of the sheet is in contact with the food and the doily 14 is maintained on the bottom side of the sheet away from the food. When the semi-flexible sheet 12 is withdrawn from the food container the top side retains the food while the doily 14 below is extended over the eating surface.

Semi-Flexible Sheet

The semi-flexible sheet 12 may be made of a variety of materials, including plastic, cardboard, or other similar material that protects the doily from contacting the food in the container 18. One end of the semi-flexible sheet 12 in attached to one end of the doily 14 so that when the sheet 12 is withdrawn from the packaging the doily 14 is extended over the eating surface. The semi-rigid sheet 12 may perform the functions of providing a semi-rigid support for food that may be placed on the surface of the sheet, as a storage location for other items such as towelettes 16 or merely act as a pull-tab for the doily 14.

The size of the flexible sheet 12 will depend generally on its function. If it is used as a support for the food in the container 18 its size will be sufficient for that purpose and about the size of the area occupied by the food item or items. For example, if the semi-flexible sheet 12 is provided in a food container housing two cup cakes the sheet may have the dimensions occupied by the diameters of the cupcakes. More specifically, if the largest diameter of one cup cake is 3 inches the semi-flexible sheet 12 might be 3 inches in width by 6 inches in length. If the flexible sheet 12 is to be utilized as a pull-tab to extend the doily 14 over the eating surface it may be substantially smaller. For example, if the flexible sheet 12 were being provided to extend a doily 14 from a cardboard or plastic food container 18 it may have the dimensions of the front side of the container such as about 2 inches in width and 4.5 inches in length.

A number of items that may be used with or for the food in the container 18 may be provided on the semi-flexible sheet 12. For example, prior to touching the food the user may consider washing his/her hands. A moistened towelette 16 or sanitizing agent sealed in an airtight enclosure may be affixed to one side of the semi-flexible sheet 12. Correspondingly, other items including food preparation and consumption implements maybe provided such as for example disposable utensils, a stir stick 24, a spreading stick 24, straw and adhesive pads 22 for affixing condiment cups or other items to the semi-flexible sheet 12. These items are preferably provided on the side of the semi-flexible sheet 12 opposite the food items.

Doily

The doily 14 may be made of a variety of materials that protect the food from contact with the eating or food preparation surface and that prevents food from leaking through the doily 14. A variety of materials are available commercially that provide these barrier capabilities including plastics and treated papers such as polymer coated papers. Preferably these materials are sufficiently thin so that when folded the doily 14 does not occupy a substantial volume when affixed within a food container 18.

The manner in which the doily 14 is folded will depend on the dimensions of the food container 18 in which it is to be affixed. Preferably the doily 14, which is attached at one end to the food container 18, is folded in such a way that when the semi-flexible sheet 12 attached to the other end of the doily 14 is withdrawn from the food container 18 the doily 14 unfolds covering the eating surface. This is done primarily by folding the doily 14 in an accordion configuration to prevent the doily 14 from binding when the semi-flexible sheet 12 is extracted from the food container 18. In one example the center of one edge of the doily 14 is affixed to the center of the opening of the food container 18. The portions of the doily 14 that extend beyond each side of the container opening are each folded inward until the doily 14 has the same or slightly smaller dimension as the opening of the food container 18. The doily 14 is then folded in an accordion configuration with each fold having a dimension slightly smaller then area in the food container 18 it is intended to occupy. For easy access the semi-flexible sheet 12 may have a pull tab, textured finger grip or aperture for gripping during withdrawal.

FIG. 1 shows one preferred configuration for insertion within a convenience food box 18. The food container assembly 10 is affixed within the front side of the box. When opened the semi-flexible sheet 12 gripping means is visible. One end of the doily 14 is affixed to the semi-flexible sheet 12 and the other is affixed to the food container assembly package 10. When the semi-flexible sheet 12 is extracted from the package the doily 14 begins to unfold. In its fully extended length the side of the doily 14 can then be unfolded increasing the width of the clean eating or food preparation surface.

FIG. 2 shows another preferred configuration used for prepared food sealed in cellophane or plastic bags 20. In this configuration the semi-flexible sheet 12 acts as a solid support on which to place the food. The doily 14 is affixed at one end to the based of the semi-flexible sheet 12 on one side of the bag while the other end is affixed to the opposite side. The doily 14 is folded in an accordion configuration with the semi-flexible sheet 12 extending beyond the folds on the end of the plastic bag indicated for opening. When the semi-flexible sheet 12 is withdrawn the doily 14 unfolds. In its fully extended length the side of the doily 14 can then be unfolded increasing the width of the clean eating or food preparation surface.

FIG. 3 shows another preferred configuration used for prepared food placed in a paper or plastic bag 20. In this configuration the packet housing, the semi-flexible sheet 12 and doily 14 is adhered to the surface of the bag 20. The pocket may be placed on the exterior surface or on the interior of the bag 20. The doily 14 is affixed at one end to the base of the semi-flexible sheet 12 on one side of the packet while the other end is affixed to the opposite side. The doily 14 is folded in an accordion configuration with the semi-flexible sheet 12 extending beyond the folds on the end of the packet indicated for opening. When the semi-flexible sheet 12 is withdrawn the doily 14 unfolds. In its fully extended length the side of the doily 14 can then be unfolded increasing the width of the clean eating or food preparation surface.