Title:
Eating utensil contaminant shield
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A combination sanitary, contaminant-impervious, protective, layered composite pad on which eating utensils are placed is provided. The composite pad includes at least one upper absorbent layer affixed to and in registry with the top surface of a lower, contaminant-impervious, non-absorbent layer. The pad is sized to accommodate a complement of eating utensils placed thereon which are thereby isolated from and protected from bacteria and other contaminants which may be present on the food support surface. A plurality of the composite pads may be stored in a dispenser prior to use, either in a folded configuration or in a flat configuration. Additionally, a packet suitable for carrying in a purse or pocket in which a plurality of the composite pads is stored prior to use is provided. Still further, a hermetically sealed single packet in which a single composite pad is stored prior to a single use by an individual diner is also provided.



Inventors:
Mcmillan, Patricia D. (Newark, DE, US)
Application Number:
12/229416
Publication Date:
02/25/2010
Filing Date:
08/22/2008
Primary Class:
International Classes:
B65D5/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
PERREAULT, ANDREW D
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Patricia D. McMillan (Newark, DE, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A combination sanitary, contaminant-impervious, protective, layered composite pad on which eating utensils are placed, the pad being especially adapted for use by a diner in commercial eating establishments and institutional facilities, said composite pad comprising: at least one upper absorbent layer affixed to and in registry with the top surface of a lower, contaminant-impervious, non-absorbent layer, said lower non-absorbent layer being oriented adjacent to a table or other support surface on which said diner's food is to be placed, said pad being sized to accommodate, and including, in combination, a complement of said eating utensils including one or more of a knife, fork and spoon, placed upon said pad, whereby said composite pad isolates and protects said eating utensils placed thereon from contaminants which may be present on said support surface.

2. The combination of claim 1 including a plurality of upper absorbent layers affixed to said contaminant-impervious layer.

3. The combination of claim 1 wherein said absorbent layer is paper.

4. The combination of claim 2 wherein all of said absorbent layers are paper.

5. The combination of claim 1 wherein a lower absorbent layer is affixed to and in registry with the bottom surface of said contaminant-impervious layer, the lower absorbent layer being oriented immediately adjacent said support surface.

6. The combination of claim 5 wherein said lower absorbent layer is paper.

7. The combination of claim 1 wherein said contaminant-impervious layer is waterproof.

8. The combination of claim 1 wherein said contaminant-impervious layer is plastic.

9. The combination of claim 1 wherein said contaminant-impervious layer is a non-woven plastic.

10. The combination of claim 1 wherein said contaminant-impervious layer is polyethylene.

11. The combination of claim 1 wherein said contaminant-impervious layer is a thin film layer.

12. The combination of claim 1 wherein said contaminant-impervious layer is adhesively affixed to said absorbent layer.

13. The combination of claim 1 wherein said contaminant-impervious layer is spray-coated onto said absorbent layer.

14. The combination of claim 11 wherein said contaminant-impervious layer is a thin film of polyethylene embossed to adhere to said absorbent layer.

15. The combination of claim 14 wherein said absorbent layer is paper.

16. The combination of claim 1 wherein the topmost absorbent layer carries indicia thereon.

17. The combination of claim 1 wherein the topmost absorbent layer carries advertising indicia thereon.

18. The combination of claim 1 wherein said pad is square and has dimensions of 6 inches by 6 inches.

19. The combination of claim 1 wherein said pad is square and has dimensions of 5 inches by 5 inches.

20. The combination of claim 1 wherein said pad is formed into an envelope, open along one edge thereof, into which said complement of eating utensils is inserted.

21. The combination of claim 1 including a dispenser in which a plurality of said composite pads is stored prior to use.

22. The combination of claim 21 wherein said pads are stored in a folded configuration.

23. The combination of claim 21 wherein said pads are stored flat.

24. The combination of claim 1 wherein said pad is wrapped around said utensils and adhesively secured thereat.

25. The combination of claim 1 including a purse or pocket size packet in which a plurality of said composite pads is stored prior to use.

26. The combination of claim 1 including a hermetically sealed packet in which said composite pad is stored prior to use.

27. The method of use of the combination as claimed in claim 1.

Description:

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

The invention relates to a shielding pad on which to place eating utensils, the pad being especially suited for use by diners in commercial eating establishments and institutional facilities such as schools and hospitals, which pad isolates and protects the utensils from bacteria or other contaminants which may be present on the table or other surface on which the diner's food is placed.

Commercial dining establishments often depend on turnover of clientele to maximize their profits. As a result, speed is often made imperative in removing tableware after use by one diner, cleaning the dining surface preparatory to seating a fresh diner, and placing clean utensils on the dining surface for use by the new diner. The cleaning is often incomplete. Alternatively, especially in fast food establishments and institutional facilities, diners can collect their food orders from a central location, pick up eating utensils, condiments, napkins and the like, and seat themselves at a dining counter or table or hospital serving tray which may, or may not, have been cleaned in the time since a previous diner or patient used the counter or table or tray.

Accordingly, in many such and similar instances, there is a need and a desire for a convenient, compact, preferably disposable shield or barrier which is impervious to bacteria and other contaminants, and which is positioned between a diner's eating utensils and the table or countertop or other eating surface on which the diner's food and utensils are placed.

Elevated support apparatuses on which to place eating utensils have long been known. U.S. Pat. No. 4,834,328 discloses a support for eating utensils including a support frame having front and rear edges which are receivable on a supporting surface. A raised central support portion has one or more transversely spaced apertures in the central support portion which are adapted for receiving and supporting the eating end of a spoon, the blade end of a knife and/or the eating end of a fork in upwardly spaced relation to the supporting surface.

More recently, U.S. Pat. No. 6,994,304B2 discloses a utensil support apparatus constructed of paper. This support includes a main body and a utensil supporting section formed on the main body. The utensil supporting section is folded upwardly along a lateral edge. A pair of outer sections formed on the utensil supporting sections is folded to prop up the utensil supporting section. A detachable advertising section may be formed on the main body for removal after use of the utensil support apparatus.

And U.S. Pat. No. 4,800,108 discloses a combination napkin and table setting holder made entirely of paper. The device includes a single sheet of absorbent paper in rectangular form which is twelve inches wide by sixteen inches long and which contains a single straight line of perforations dividing the sheet into a twelve inch by twelve inch square napkin and a rectangle twelve inches long by four inches wide. To this is attached a second sheet of paper having the same width as the width of the rectangle and a height of eight inches, having its two opposite sides and lower edge bonded to the lower edge and two sides of the rectangle, thus forming an open topped pocket designed to receive a knife, fork and spoon or similar utensils therein, making up an individual table setting.

In contrast to these known prior disclosures, the present invention provides a sanitary solution to the above-described problems which includes a contaminant-impervious, layered pad on which a diner's eating utensils are placed, which pad is especially suitable for use in commercial dining establishments and institutional facilities, the pad being sized to accommodate a complement of utensils including knife, fork and/or spoon placed thereon. The pad isolates and protects utensils placed thereon from all contaminants which may be present on the table or countertop or other surface used in food service.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

A combination sanitary, contaminant-impervious, protective, layered composite pad on which eating utensils are placed is provided, the pad being especially adapted for use by a diner in commercial eating establishments and institutional facilities. The composite pad includes at least one upper absorbent layer affixed to and in registry with the top surface of a lower, contaminant-impervious, non-absorbent layer. The lower non-absorbent layer is oriented, in use, adjacent to a table or other support surface on which the diner's food is to be placed. The pad is sized to accommodate a complement of eating utensils placed thereon, including one or more of a knife, fork and spoon.

This composite pad isolates and protects the eating utensils placed thereon from bacteria and other contaminants which may be present on the support surface. A plurality of upper absorbent layers optionally may be affixed to the contaminant-impervious layer. The absorbent layers preferably are made of paper. A lower absorbent layer may also, advantageously and optionally, be affixed to and in registry with the bottom surface of the contaminant-impervious layer, the lower absorbent layer being oriented, in use, immediately adjacent the support surface. The lower absorbent layer is also preferably paper. The contaminant-impervious layer preferably is waterproof and made of a plastic such as polyethylene. The contaminant-impervious layer may be a non-woven plastic or a thin film plastic.

The contaminant-impervious layer is affixed to the absorbent layer. It may be spray-coated onto the absorbent layer, for example, or it may be a thin film of a plastic such as polyethylene adhesively applied or embossed so as to adhere the barrier layer to the absorbent layer.

In preferred embodiments, the topmost absorbent layer carries indicia thereon such as advertising indicia, the pad is square and has dimensions of 6 inches by 6 inches for a full-size version or 5 inches by 5 inches for a smaller version. The pad may be formed into an envelope, open along one edge thereof, into which the complement of eating utensils is inserted and the combination placed on the dining table.

A dispenser in which a plurality of the composite pads is stored prior to use can be provided wherein the pads can be stored in a folded configuration or in a flat configuration. Additionally, a packet suitable for carrying in a purse or pocket in which a plurality of the composite pads is stored prior to use is provided. A single composite pad may be packaged in a hermetically sealed single packet and carried and stored prior to a single use by an individual diner.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

In the accompanying drawings,

FIG. 1 depicts a perspective view of a full place setting to be used for the serving of food on a dining surface such as a table or countertop, including the composite pad of the invention on which is placed a complement of eating utensils including a knife, fork and spoon, and including a plate, cup and saucer, all shown for completeness.

An individual pad is shown in one possible orientation in FIG. 2 having knife, fork and spoon placed thereon, and in an alternate configuration in FIG. 3.

A preferred construction of the pad of the invention is shown in the exploded, cut-away view of FIG. 4, wherein individual layers are shown separated from each other for illustration purposes.

FIG. 5 depicts a cross-sectional view of an alternate, also preferred, construction of the pad of the invention showing the impervious layer sandwiched between an upper absorbent layer and a lower, optional, absorbent layer, and including two additional optional absorbent layers, for added absorbency when needed or desired.

FIG. 6 is a schematic perspective view showing a pad in an open configuration prior to folding it, along the indicated fold lines, to produce the compact folded pad shown in FIG. 7.

An alternate folded configuration, folded along the fold lines indicated, is shown in FIG. 8, which, after folding, may be secured by an adhesive or sticky tab.

FIG. 9 depicts an envelope, sealed around three sides, formed of the pad construction shown in FIGS. 4 or 5, and open along its fourth side into which the complement of utensils is to be inserted as indicated by the arrows.

FIG. 10 shows the utensils completely inserted into the envelope prior to placement of the combination on a table.

The dashed lines in FIG. 9 and FIG. 10 are intended to illustrate borders of the space within such lines on the envelope within which indicia such as advertising indicia may be displayed.

FIGS. 11-14 depict alternate dispensers which may be used to hold the pad(s) of the invention and from which they may be dispensed for use.

FIG. 11 shows a napkin holder containing a plurality of pads for dispensing.

FIG. 12 shows a box, typically a cardboard box such as a facial tissue box, or soft plastic container which stores a plurality of pads in a folded flat configuration prior to dispensing as needed.

FIG. 13 shows a single packet, hermetically sealed, and containing a single pad of the invention, removable from the packet by tearing along the tear line and pulling the pad therefrom, all as indicated by the arrow shown in FIG. 14.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION AND PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS WITH REFERENCE TO THE DRAWINGS

A combination sanitary, contaminant-impervious, protective, layered composite pad on which eating utensils are placed is provided. The composite pad includes at least one upper absorbent layer affixed to and in registry with the top surface of a lower, contaminant-impervious, non-absorbent layer. The pad is sized to accommodate a complement of eating utensils placed thereon which are thereby isolated from and protected from bacteria and other contaminants which may be present on the food support surface. A plurality of the composite pads may be stored in a dispenser prior to use, either in a folded configuration or in a flat configuration. Additionally, a packet suitable for carrying in a purse or pocket in which a plurality of the composite pads is stored prior to use is provided. Still further, a hermetically sealed single packet in which a single composite pad is stored prior to a single use by an individual diner is also provided.

A detailed description of the invention and its preferred embodiments is best provided with reference to the accompanying drawings wherein FIG. 1 depicts a complete place setting for serving food, including the combination according to the invention, wherein a contaminant-impervious, protective, layered pad 10 is shown receiving a complement of eating utensils thereon, including knife 22, fork 24 and spoon 26, all placed beside plate 28 and including cup 30 and saucer 32 to complete the setting.

In its most basic and uncomplicated embodiment, the present invention provides a solution to a long-felt need, namely, providing sanitary, bacteria, virus, and other contaminant-free utensils used by a diner in a commercial eating establishment or institutional environment such as a hospital or school. As shown in FIG. 1, a complement of eating utensils, including a knife 22, fork 24 and spoon 26, is placed upon pad 10 of the invention, all in standard orientation with respect to a plate 28 and cup 30 and saucer 32, as arranged at a diner's conventional setting in, say, a restaurant.

Convenient orientations of the placement of the utensils on pad 10 are depicted in FIGS. 2 and 3, each figure intended to represent alternative placements of the 3-ply pad 10 shown partially peeled apart in FIG. 4. In each of these figures, the knife 22, fork 24 and spoon 26 are shown resting on pad 10 constructed as a three-layer system. Pad 10 includes a lower, contaminant-impervious, non-absorbent layer 12 to which is affixed an upper, absorbent layer 14, the layers 12 and 14 being in registry, with the utensils being placed on the upper surface of layer 14. An optional lower absorbent layer 20, affixed and in registry with layer 12, as shown in FIG. 4, may be employed when added absorbency is needed or desired.

The objectives of the invention may be achieved by the two-ply system of impervious layer 12 affixed to upper absorbent layer 14. However, for additional absorbency and added aesthetic and utilitarian reasons, the 3-ply system as depicted is preferred. Still further layers, as additionally shown in FIG. 5, are preferred for certain applications.

FIG. 5 illustrates, in a cross-sectional view, the 5-ply layered construction of pad 10 according to the invention. Therein, impervious layer 12 has affixed thereto, to its upper surface, a first absorbent layer 14 and, to its lower surface, an optional absorbent layer 20, as shown. The additional absorbent layers 16,18 are included for increased absorbency.

The impervious layer 12 is preferably a layer of a plastic material, which may be a plastic film affixed to absorbent layer 14 or it may be sprayed onto the absorbent substrate 14. Polyethylene film, or a polyethylene coating, having FDA approval for use with foodstuffs, is preferred.

The absorbent layers 14,16,18 and 20 are all of absorbent material, preferably paper, and standard paper napkins laminated to polyethylene film would form one embodiment of the invention herein.

Composites, some of which are commercially available, could be used as components of pad 10. Freezer papers, available from various sources, having one side plastic coated and laminated to a layer of paper, if sufficiently absorbent, would be suitable.

Especially preferred for the laminated construction of pad 10, depicted as layers 12, 14 and 20 in FIGS. 4 and 5, is the polymer coated towel or bib-like construction currently used in dental offices as patient bibs. This material is 2- or 3-ply absorbent paper attached by pressing or embossing into a patterned-texture film of polyethylene.

Preferred sizes of pad 10 are 6 inch by 6 inch squares, or, more economically, 5 inch by 5 inch squares. Both sizes are inexpensive to produce. While size of pad 10 is not critical to the invention, useful and economical sizes will, as a practical matter, be readily apparent to one skilled in the art. Large sheetings or rolls of the basic constructions shown in FIGS. 2-5 can be produced and cut to desired sizes for packaging and distribution.

To that end, FIG. 6 depicts one pad 10 foldable along fold lines 40, indicated by the curved arrows shown, into the compact, folded configuration of FIG. 7. A plurality of the pads 10 of FIG. 7 can be prepackaged and dispensed from a conventional dispenser 48, as shown in FIG. 11.

For aesthetic reasons at a particular table setting, differing fold patterns may be used. An alternative fold is shown in FIG. 8, wherein pad 10 is folded along fold lines 42, for folding as indicated by the curved arrows.

An envelope or pouch can be formed of the layered composite of the invention, as shown in FIGS. 9 and 10, wherein envelope 44 is formed of pad 10 into which the knife 22, fork 24 and spoon 26 are inserted, as indicated by the arrows. The space 46 depicted in the figures indicates an area in which indicia, such as advertising indicia, can be included on pad 10, and this concept is included within the scope of the invention.

Alternative dispensers for use with pads 10 are shown in FIGS. 12-14. FIG. 12 depicts a plurality of pads 10 stacked in a flat configuration within a box 50 and dispensed much as facial tissues are dispensed. FIG. 13 shows a hermetically sealed packet 52, preferably of a plastic material such as polyethylene, which contains a single pad 10, and which can be carried easily in a pocket or purse, from which pad 10 is extracted after opening the packet 52 by tearing along tear line 54 and removing the pad 10, as indicated by the arrow in FIG. 14.

While the invention has been disclosed herein in connection with certain embodiments and detailed descriptions, it will be clear to one skilled in the art that modifications or variations of such details can be made without deviating from the gist of this invention, and such modifications or variations are considered to be within the scope of the claims hereinbelow.