Reptiles Are In!
INDUSTRY CASE STUDY | Food Manufacturing & Service
MISSION TYPE: Product
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), each year roughly one in six Americans (48 million people) get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and approximately 3,000 people die of foodborne illness (also referred to as “foodborne disease,” “foodborne infection,” and “food poisoning”).1
Foodborne illness is much more than what’s commonly known as “stomach flu.” It’s a serious health issue and economic burden for consumers. According to the USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS), Hoffmann’s 2012 research estimates annual costs of illness at $14.1 billion(2) and are associated with the 14 major bacterial pathogens including Campylobacter, Salmonella, Listeria monocytogenes, E. coli O157:H7, E. coli non-O157:H7 STEC (2000), and others.2 The cost of illness is defined as the sum of treatment costs, the value of time lost to illness, and willingness to pay to prevent death.
Food becomes contaminated through a variety of mechanisms. A major contributor is cross-contamination. Cross-contamination is the physical movement, or transfer, of harmful bacteria from one person, object, or place to another. Preventing cross-contamination is a key factor in preventing foodborne illness. It’s the challenge that has been impacting food manufacturing and service organizations for many years.
Over the past decade, these organizations have used an increasing quantity of sealed bagged and pouched food products and supplies in their manufacturing and preparation processes. The theory being, if food and supplies are protected from these microbes and pathogens,they should be able to minimize cross-contamination issues. Unfortunately, this created a greater need for tools such as scissors, knives, razor blades, and carton cutters to open the bags. This has resulted in unforeseen negative contributors to the cross-contamination challenge and huge losses associated with laceration injuries.
In meetings with some of the world’s largest food processing and service organizations, we heard the same request over and over again: “Develop a bag-cutting device that would decrease cross-contamination issues and lacerations in our organizations”.
That’s exactly what we did.
Develop a simple and safe tool to reduce cross-contamination issues.
Prior to diving head first into some pretty shallow water, we had to understand the end user and the challenge face-to-face. Field studies showed how end users open bags of raw food product such as chicken and vegetables with knives, scissors, razor blades, and, yes, home and car keys. They often place these tools on work surfaces without cleaning them. Coworkers would then use the same tool an hour or more later on a different bag of food, as well as on a number of subsequent bags of food, before cleaning it. At times, end users would also use the same tool to open boxes of cleaning chemicals and other supplies normally found in a work environment. The result would be the contamination of all products the tool touched until that tool was cleaned.
Existing solutions were nearly non-existent in the marketplace, so we focused our brainstorming and ideation phase initially on pioneering ways to cut flat and thin film substrates. Once we defined novel cutting processes to accomplish the same result of a knife, scissor, or key, we set off to explore the human side of the equation. We asked the team, “What would be a simple and effective solution for the end user?”
Client feedback and team brainstorming sessions provided the abstract concepts needed to move the development process towards a handful of promising ideas. Shortly thereafter, we developed an extremely successful solution we crowned the Viper® Bag and Pouch Opener.
Our development of this simple, yet stylish, solution provides end users with a one-time-use tool that can be simply placed in cleaning solutions, and it sanitizes after each use. The need to use the tool more than one time was eliminated because of the sufficient supply of cleaned and sanitized Vipers available for use throughout the day.
Not only did the Viper decrease the potential for cross-contamination, but it also reduced laceration injuries and their associated high cost. Because of this success, it is now used by a growing list of the largest food service and processing organizations across the globe. Millions of units have been sold to date.
1 CDC Reports 1 in 6 Get Sick from Foodborne Illnesses Each Year. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention press release, December 15, 2010 http://www.cdc.gov/media/pressrel/2010/r101215.html
2 Sandra Hoffmann and Tobenna D. Anekwe, Making Sense of Recent Cost-of-Foodborne-Illness Estimates. USDA Economic Research Service Economic Bulletin No. (EIB-118), September 2013 www.ers.usda.gov/publications/eib-economic-information-bulletin/eib118.aspx