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Publication numberUS20030057114 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 10/289,593
Publication dateMar 27, 2003
Filing dateNov 7, 2002
Priority dateNov 27, 2000
Publication number10289593, 289593, US 2003/0057114 A1, US 2003/057114 A1, US 20030057114 A1, US 20030057114A1, US 2003057114 A1, US 2003057114A1, US-A1-20030057114, US-A1-2003057114, US2003/0057114A1, US2003/057114A1, US20030057114 A1, US20030057114A1, US2003057114 A1, US2003057114A1
InventorsWilliam Brander
Original AssigneeBrander William M.
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Display tray with edge absorbency
US 20030057114 A1
Abstract
A tray for storing and displaying products that exude liquid includes a base with side walls and end walls. The base has a side rib spaced from and parallel to a side wall for forming a side liquid collection cavity at the side wall. The base has other interior ribs to support the product. The tray is designed to be tilted at an angle so that the side liquid collection cavity is lowermost and allows any liquid to move downwardly into the side cavity. An absorbent material is located in the side liquid collection cavity, and the cavity is covered by a porous sheet so that the liquid passes through the porous sheet and is absorbed below the sheet and is hidden from view. The liquid may form a gel with the absorbent material. The preferred absorbent material is a non-crosslinked gel forming polymer and at least one clay and preferably including a trivalent cation. A process for allowing the liquid to flow through the porous material and interact with the absorbent material to form a gel that is too bulky to pass back through the porous material to where the product is located.
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Claims(28)
I claim:
1. A tray for storing and displaying liquid exuding products comprising:
a rectangular tray base having a periphery with sides and ends, with the sides being longer than the ends, said base having opposed first and second side walls and opposed end walls extending upwardly from said sides and ends of said base respectively and forming an upper edge of said tray;
said base having at least one side rib projecting upwardly from said base which is spaced from and substantially parallel to said first side wall defining a side liquid collection cavity formed by said first side wall and said side rib;
a plurality of interior ribs projecting upwardly from said base to support the liquid exuding product so that the liquid exuding product does not rest directly on said base;
said interior ribs forming at least one interior liquid collection cavity in said base;
absorbent material positioned in said side liquid collection cavity and said interior liquid collection cavities;
a sheet of porous material extending over and supported by said side rib and said interior ribs for containing said absorbent material in said cavities;
a liquid exuding product supported by said interior ribs;
a transparent sheet applied over said product and sealed to said upper edge of said tray;
so that when said tray is stacked with said side liquid collection cavity positioned lowermost, liquid from said liquid exuding product tends to flow into said side liquid collection cavity and become absorbed by said absorbent material in said side liquid collection cavity.
2. The tray of claim 1 in which there is a side rib spaced from each side wall and a liquid collection cavity between each side wall and the adjacent side rib.
3. The tray of claim 1 in which the tray has four corners and a center with an interior rib extending from each corner toward the center to form four liquid collection cavities in the interior of the tray.
4. The tray of claim 3 which further has an absorbent material arranged in each liquid collection cavity between a side rib and the adjacent side wall.
5. The tray of claim 4 wherein the absorbent material is located in all of said liquid collection cavities.
6. The tray of claim 5 wherein said sheet of porous material is adhered to said interior ribs of said tray and contains said absorbent material in all of said liquid collection cavities.
7. The tray of claim 6 wherein said side liquid collection cavity intersects said first side wall.
8. The tray of claim 7 where the absorbent material also extends upwardly from the base a short distance along said first side wall.
9. The tray of claim 8 in which said absorbent material is a gel forming material and when any liquid exuded from or accompanying a liquid exuding product in the tray comes in contact with said absorbent material a gel is formed, and said layer of porous material restrains the gel from passing through it.
10. The tray of claim 1 wherein said side liquid collection cavity is positioned at the lower most position with respect to the tray when said tray is shingle stacked on its side.
11. The tray of claim 3 in which the side walls and end walls slope outwardly from the base as they extend upwardly so that trays can be nested together when stacked empty.
12. The tray of claim 1, wherein at least one drain notch is formed in said side rib, with said notch extending beneath said porous material for allowing liquid to pass across said side rib without passing back through said porous material.
13. A tray assembly for displaying products that exude or are accompanied by liquid comprising:
a tray having a base and opposed sides, said base having side walls extending upwardly from said sides of said base respectively and forming an upper edge of said tray;
said base having at least one side rib projecting upwardly from said base spaced from and substantially parallel to a side wall and forming with said side wall a side liquid collection cavity between said side wall and said side rib;
said base having a plurality of interior ribs projecting upwardly from said base to support the product so that the product does not rest directly on said base,
said interior ribs forming at least one interior liquid collection cavity in the interior of said base;
an absorbent material arranged in said side liquid collection cavity between a side wall and said adjacent side rib;
so that said tray is tilted and supported at an angle so that said side liquid collection cavity is lowermost, and a product that exudes or is accompanied by liquid is placed on said ribs, and any liquid that moves downwardly over said side rib or from said product towards the lower side of the tray is retained in said side liquid collection cavity with at least a portion of the liquid being absorbed by said absorbent material in said side liquid collection cavity.
14. The tray assembly of claim 13 wherein said at least one side rib comprises a side rib spaced from each side wall and forming with said side walls side liquid collection cavities between each side wall and the adjacent side rib.
15. The tray assembly of claim 13 in which the tray has four corners and a center with an interior rib extending from each corner towards the center to form four interior liquid collection cavities in the interior of the tray.
16. The tray assembly of claim 13 wherein the absorbent material is located in all of said liquid collection cavities.
17. The tray assembly of claim 16 and further including a layer of porous material extending over said absorbent material and adhered to the tray and containing said absorbent material in all of said liquid collection cavities.
18. The tray assembly of claim 13 and further including a plurality of interior ribs extending from said base and forming therebetween interior liquid collection cavities, absorbent material in all of said interior liquid collection cavities and said side liquid collection cavities, and a porous sheet adhered to said side ribs and interior ribs and said side walls for retaining the absorbent material and liquid absorbed by said absorbent material in said interior and side liquid collection cavities.
19. The tray assembly of claim 18 in which said absorbent material is a gel forming material that gels with any liquid exuded by or accompanying said product contained in the tray, with said porous sheet being capable of restraining the gel from passing through it.
20. The tray assembly of claim 17 and further including a transparent sheet adhered to the upper edges of the side walls and end walls of the tray to form a seal.
21. The tray assembly of claim 13, wherein said absorbent material consists essentially of:
at least one non-crosslinked gel-forming water soluble polymer having a first absorbency, said first absorbency being defined by weight of liquid absorbed/weight of said at least one non-crosslinked gel forming polymer, said at least one non-crosslinked gel forming polymer being food safe;
at least one mineral composition having a second absorbency, said second absorbency being defined by weight of liquid absorbed/weight of said at least one mineral composition, said at least one mineral composition being food safe; and
at least one soluble salt having at least one trivalent cation, said at least one soluble salt having at least one trivalent cation being food safe, the absorbency of said absorbent composition of matter exceeding a sum of said first absorbency and said second absorbency, said absorbent composition of matter being compatible with food products such that said absorbent composition of matter is food safe when in direct contact with the food products.
22. The tray assembly of claim 13, wherein said absorbent material consists essentially of a synthetic cross-linked polymer.
23. The tray assembly of claim 13, wherein said absorbent material consists essentially of sodium polyacrylate.
24. The tray assembly of claim 13, wherein at least one drain notch is formed in said side rib and said drain notch is spaced from said porous material for allowing liquid to pass across said side rib without passing back through said porous material.
25. The tray assembly of claim 13, wherein said at least one side rib comprises a side rib adjacent all of said side walls.
26. A tray assembly for displaying products that exude or are accompanied by liquid, comprising:
a tray having a base and at least one side wall,
a side rib extending upwardly from said base and positioned parallel to and adjacent said side wall and forming with said side wall a side liquid collection cavity,
said side liquid collection cavity being configured so that when said tray is edge stacked said side liquid collection cavity is positioned lowermost of said tray assembly,
liquid absorbent material placed in said side liquid collection cavity,
a porous sheet extending from said side rib to said side wall over said side liquid collection cavity and covering said side liquid collection cavity and said absorbent material and holding said absorbent material in said side liquid collection cavity,
so that when a product is placed in said tray and said tray is edge stacked, liquid passing from the product tends to drain through said porous material and into said side liquid collection cavity and become absorbed in said absorbent material and said absorbed liquid is prevented from passing back through said porous material.
27. The tray assembly of claim 26, wherein
a food product is positioned on said tray and supported by said side rib, and
a transparent flexible cover is extended over said food product and adhered to said side wall.
28. A process for collecting a liquid exuding from or accompanying a product contained in a tray and forming the liquid into a gel away from the product and preventing the gel from migrating back to the product, said process comprising:
providing a tray for displaying said product, said tray having a side wall, a rib positioned adjacent said side wall, and a side liquid collection cavity interposed between said side wall and said rib,
placing an absorbent material in said side liquid collection cavity,
applying a porous sheet to said tray and extending said porous sheet over said side liquid collection cavity,
retaining the absorbent material in said side liquid collection cavity with said porous sheet,
placing a liquid exuding product in said tray,
covering said liquid exuding product with a cover and connecting said cover to said tray,
tilting said tray so that said side liquid collection cavity is lowermost of said tray,
draining liquid exuded from said liquid exuding product downwardly into said side liquid collection cavity,
absorbing with said absorbent material the liquid drained from said liquid exuding product into said side liquid collection cavity, and
preventing said absorbed liquid from passing back through said porous sheet.
Description
CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

[0001] This application is a Continuation-In-Part Application, which is based on and claims priority to U.S. Utility application Ser. No. 09/722,773, filed on Nov. 27, 2000, and claims priority to U.S. Utility application Ser. No. 09/105,349, filed on Jun. 26, 1998, now U.S. Pat. No. 6,152,295, which is based on and claims priority to U.S. Provisional Applications, serial No. 60/079,550, filed on Mar. 27, 1998, and 60/086,854, filed on May 27, 1998.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0002] 1. Field of the Invention

[0003] The present invention generally relates to trays for storing and displaying foods and other products that bear liquids that are likely to be exuded from the products. More particularly, the present invention relates to a storing and displaying tray which has ribs in the base for supporting the product and a cavity between a side wall and an adjacent parallel rib for retaining any excess liquid when the tray is tilted. This cavity may have an absorbent material for collecting and absorbing the excess liquids that drain into that cavity when the tray is tilted.

[0004] 2. Description of the Related Art

[0005] Excess moisture within food storage containers can cause premature spoilage of food products which are stored in the container because the moisture provides a favorable environment for the growth and reproduction of microorganisms. Excess moisture in a food storage container also can lead to leakage of fluids from the storage container which can cause contamination of other foods and items about the container. Attempts at controlling excess moisture in food storage containers, such as trays (rigid and flexible) and bags, have met with some success. These prior art devices include: (1) pre-formed trays configured for the insertion of absorbent pads or absorbent sheets with the food products resting on the absorbent pad; (2) trays with built-in reservoirs arranged to trap excess moisture exuded from the products, with some of the trays including a porous cover over the reservoirs that allows fluids to drain from the product through the cover into the reservoir but which partially restricts the fluids from reemerging past the cover following shaking or movement of the tray; and (3) trays or packs made from multiple layers of material with one layer being liquid impervious, and a second layer being liquid pervious to allow fluids to enter, and an absorbent media sandwiched between the two layers to absorb and retain the entering fluids.

[0006] There is a desire to display foods in trays having a transparent cover in a shingle stack in stores. A shingle stack refers to several trays edge stacked on shelves so that the trays with a product are tilted forward for better viewing by the customer. This is particularly attractive for foods like chicken parts. Unfortunately many products that exude liquid, such as chicken, will exude so much liquid so that when the tray is tilted the liquid naturally flows towards the lower-most side wall of the tray creating an undesirable liquid pool. This might occur even with trays that have absorbent material in the bottom of the tray, because there might be liquid on the upper side of the food product that has not flowed to the bottom of the tray, or the food product has been frozen or partially frozen and ice has formed on the upper surface of the food product and does not melt and flow off the food product until the tray and food product have been tilted. This tends to result in the liquid flowing to the lower edge of the tray instead of the bottom of the tray, making an undesirable pool of liquid and blood that is visible in the package. Also, if more liquid has accumulated in the bottom of the tray than can be absorbed by the absorbent material, there can be run-off of the excess liquid from the bottom of the tray into the lower edge of a tilted tray. Simply putting more absorbent material in the bottom of the tray does not always solve this problem as any unabsorbed liquid still tends to flow towards the bottom side wall when the tray is tilted.

[0007] Therefore, there exists a need for devices and methods that address these and other shortcomings of the prior art.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0008] Briefly stated, the present invention relates to trays for storing and displaying foods and other products that bear liquids which are likely to accompany or be exuded from the products. In a preferred embodiment, the tray includes a base, side walls and end walls. Ribs that project above the base are provided for supporting the product and to form interior liquid collection cavities between the ribs for holding liquid that is exuded from or accompany the food product. Since this tray is designed to display products in a shingle stack, it has a rib parallel to and displaced from the lower most side wall, forming an edge liquid collection cavity between this side wall and the adjacent rib for collecting and retaining any liquid that flows downwardly over the rib or from the product. Preferably, an absorbent material is placed in this cavity and in the other cavities formed between the ribs in the base of the tray. A porous layer of material, such as a porous sheet, may be placed over the absorbent material and adhered to the ribs and lower part of the side walls of the tray, spanning the liquid collection cavities. The food product is placed on the porous material and is supported mainly by the ribs of the tray. This allows the liquid that runs off or exudes from the food product to pass through the porous material and into the absorbent material in the cavities below. When the liquid contacts the absorbent material in the cavities they form a gel that is too bulky to pass back through the porous material. Therefore, the liquid is trapped in the liquid collection cavities by this process.

[0009] A transparent sheet, such as clear flexible plastic, may be adhered to the top edges of the tray and extended over the food product to seal the product inside the tray.

[0010] In a preferred embodiment the tray may be provided with two side ribs, each of which is displaced from and extends parallel to a side wall to form a side liquid collection cavity to collect the excess liquid when the tray is placed in a shingle stacked display. The formation of the two side liquid collection cavities at opposite sides of the tray allows the tray to be stacked on either side and absorb liquid in the lower edge collection cavity. It has been found that a tray that has two side ribs and interior ribs in the form of an X that extend from each corner towards the center to form four liquid collection cavities that are Delta A shaped is preferred. However, other rib configurations can be utilized.

[0011] Other embodiments can include a side liquid collection cavity adjacent each wall of the tray, thereby permitting the tray to be edge stacked on any of its sides and perform the liquid absorption described herein.

[0012] Other features and advantages of the present invention will become apparent upon reading the following specification, when take in conjunction with the accompanying drawings.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0013] The accompanying drawings incorporated in and forming a part of the specification illustrate several aspects of the present invention, and together with the description serve to explain the principles of the inventions. The components in the drawings are not necessarily to scale, emphasis instead being placed upon clearly illustrating principles of the present invention.

[0014]FIG. 1 is perspective view of a preferred embodiment of the present invention showing the tray from the bottom of the base.

[0015]FIG. 2 is a top plan view of the storage and display tray of FIG. 1.

[0016]FIG. 3 is a perspective view of a preferred embodiment of the present invention showing the interior of the tray with an absorbent material in place on the bottom of the tray and extending a short distance up the side walls.

[0017]FIG. 4 is a partially cut-away, side view of a preferred embodiment of the present invention showing the tray in a tilted position on a support which shows some of the liquid having flowed downwardly into the cavity between the lowermost side rib and the side wall of the tray and having been largely absorbed by the absorbent material in the cavity.

[0018]FIG. 5 is a perspective view, similar to FIG. 1, but showing another embodiment of the invention.

[0019]FIG. 6 is a top plan view of the embodiment of FIG. 5.

[0020]FIG. 7 is a partial cut away, similar to FIG. 4, side view but showing the embodiment of FIG. 5.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

[0021] Referring now to the figures, wherein like reference numbers designate like parts throughout the several views, FIG. 1 depicts a preferred embodiment of the tray 10 of the present invention which is adapted to rest on the base 12. The tray 10 has side walls 14 and 16 and end walls 18 and 20 which define the interior of the tray with side walls being longer than the end walls. A top flange that forms the edge 22 of the side walls and end walls extends around the top of the tray 10 on the side walls 14, 16 and end walls 18, 20. The tray 10 has diagonal ribs 24 and 26 that extend from each corner of the tray to the center of the tray. The tray also has side ribs 28 and 30 that are displaced from and parallel to the side walls 14 and 16 forming side liquid collection cavities 32 and 34 between the side walls 14 and 16 and side ribs 28 and 30 respectively as shown in FIG. 2. A single side rib and liquid collection cavity may be provided if the tray is to be tilted and it is planned that the liquid collection cavity be on the lowermost portion of the tray when tilted. However, the preferred embodiment has side liquid collection cavities intersecting both side walls 14 and 16 so that the tray can be stacked on either of the longer side edges. All of these ribs, 24, 26, 28 and 30 project slightly above the base 12 to a common plane and are designed to support the product displayed in the tray. It will be noticed that diagonal ribs 24 and 26 form interior liquid collection cavities 36, 38, 40 and 42 in the preferred embodiment.

[0022] If the rectangular tray is formed with equal length side walls, the side ribs and side liquid collection cavities can be formed adjacent all four side walls, if desired. This enables the tray to be shingle stacked on any of its sides.

[0023] The tray 10 may also contain nesting corners 44 for the convenient stacking of trays one inside the other. The tray 10 can be formed of polystyrene, polypropylene, high density polyethylene, co-polyester or other similar materials, and can be thermally-formed, vacuum formed, etc., to produce a lightweight tray.

[0024] As shown in FIG. 2, the tray 10 incorporates two diagonal ribs 24 and 26 in the preferred embodiment. These ribs can be arranged in numerous configurations including parallel, diverging and interlacing, among others, depending upon the desired support characteristics required for the particular application. These diagonal ribs 24 and 26 serve as structural support for food products, such as chicken 52 or chicken parts, as shown in FIG. 4. The interior ribs form at least one interior liquid collection cavity 36, 38, 40 or 42 in the interior of the tray. This is important because the tray with product is usually displayed in a shingle stack and it is desirable for as much liquid as possible to be collected in the interior liquid collection cavity. The tray may also be displayed on a horizontal support. Without a side rib 28 or 30 displaced from the lower most side wall of the tray 10, too much of the liquid might tend to drain toward the lower most side wall forming an unwanted pool of liquid when the tray is tilted. The configuration shown in FIG. 2 is a preferred embodiment because it creates four interior liquid collection cavities, 36, 38, 40 and 42 which tend to restrain much of the liquid from draining all the way to the lower most side wall of the tray when it is tilted in a shingle stack. Additionally, the diagonal ribs 24 and 26 and side ribs 28 and 30 provide structural support of the tray 10 such that the tray can be formed to quite a large size without the disadvantages of size limitations due to the lack of incorporating structural support components.

[0025] As best shown in FIG. 4, a liquid absorbent material 46 is placed at least in the cavity formed between a side rib and a side wall. It is preferred that the liquid absorbent material 46 be placed in all of the liquid collection cavities formed on the entire base 12 of the tray 10. When the tray 10 is displayed in the tilted position the absorbent material 46 tends to extend up the side walls 14 and 16 a short distance to absorb the liquid that tends to flow to the side wall in the lower most position as shown in FIG. 4.

[0026] Preferably, the liquid absorbent material 46 is “food safe,” i.e., liquid absorbent material includes materials and/or ingredients defined by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as being generally regarded as safe (GRAS) for direct food contact, and may contain food safe anti-microbial additives and/or substances, such as citric acid, for example.

[0027] Preferably, the absorbent material 46 is covered by a porous sheet material 54 to retain the absorbent material 46 in the proper position in the cavities of the base 12 as shown in FIG. 4. The porous sheet material 54 may extend up the side walls 14 and 16 a short distance past the absorbent material 46 and be adhered to the side walls 14 and 16. The porous material 54 permits liquid exuded from or accompanying the product being displayed, such as an oven ready eviscerated chicken 52 or chicken parts, to pass therethrough and into the absorbent material 46. The porous material can be a perforated film, apertured film, non-woven fabric, non-woven fabric laminated to apertured film, batting, multi-composites or other suitable pervious material that can be bonded to the side walls and end walls and to the upper surfaces of the ribs 24, 26, 28 and 30 by heat sealing, applying an adhesive or other suitable means.

[0028] Once a product is placed on the porous material 54 and supported by the ribs 24-30, any fluids exuded from or accompanying the product are able to flow through the porous material 54 and into an interior or side liquid collection cavity for interaction with the absorbent material 46 which causes the fluids to be retained there and away from the product. Preferably the absorbent material 46 interacts with the fluids to form a gel that is too bulky to pass back through the porous material 54. Thus, the exuded fluids are kept away from the product which is important to prevent deterioration of the product, to provide protection of the consumer from direct contact with the liquid when opening the tray, and for appearance considerations.

[0029] It should be appreciated that this invention also includes the process where the liquid exuding from or accompanying the product passes downwardly through the porous sheet material 54 and interacts with the absorbent material 46 to form a bulky gel that cannot pass back through the porous sheet material to where the product is located as a porous material is selected with pores that are too small for the bulky gel to pass through. This process serves to separate the drained liquid from the area where the product is located.

[0030] The diagonal ribs 24 and 26 and side ribs 28 and 30 prevent the migration of the absorbent material 46, thereby substantially retaining the absorbent material 46 in a uniform distribution throughout where it is placed in the tray 10. It will be noticed that when the tray 10 is tilted as shown in FIG. 4 that side rib 28 tends to restrain liquid from moving to side liquid cavity 32. A pool of liquid 50 is shown restrained by side rib 28. Preferably, all of this liquid is absorbed by the absorbent material 46, with any excess liquid forming a liquid pool 50. Liquid may drain from the product, such as the eviscerated whole chicken 52 or chicken parts, into side liquid collection cavity 32 forming a liquid pool 48. Preferably there is sufficient absorbent material 46 so that the pool is not formed there either but is completely absorbed by the absorbent material.

[0031] The product contained in the tray 10, such as cut up chicken parts 52, can be covered by a transparent sheet 56 which may be sealed to the top flange 58 of the tray 10. This transparent sheet 56 can be formed of transparent plastic and be sealed by heat sealing, applying an adhesive or other suitable means to seal the interior of the tray 10.

[0032] Since this tray 10 is designed to display products at a tilted angle it is preferred that there be several interior liquid collection cavities, such as interior liquid collection cavities 36, 38, 40 and 42, as shown in FIG. 2 in a Delta shape. The presence of four cavities and their absorbent material tend to restrain most of the liquid from flowing to the lower most part of the edge standing tray 10. Since the tray 10 is tilted, it is preferred that the absorbent material 46 and the porous sheet material 54 be extended part way up the side walls 14 and 16 as illustrated in FIG. 3.

[0033] The tray 10 is formed as a disposable tray adapted for one-time use, after which the tray is discarded. The provision of nesting corners 44 and making the side walls 14 and 16 and end walls 18 and 20 sloping facilitates stacking of empty trays 10 prior to placement of the liquid extruding product in the tray. Typically, the absorbent material is placed in the cavities 32, 34, 36, 38, 40 and 42 and the porous sheet 54 applied to the upper surfaces of the ribs 24, 26, 28 and 30 and to the side walls, and then the trays are nest stacked for later being filled with product and covered.

[0034] The absorbent material 46 can include cellulose derivatives, polymeric substances, clays or other suitable substances possessing sufficient absorbent characteristics, including synthetic cross-linked polymers such as sodium polyacrylate. Excellent absorbent materials are disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 6,376,034 (Brander) which discloses a combination of a non-cross linked gel-forming water soluble polymer, and mineral composition and a soluble salt. U.S. Pat. No. 6,376,034 (Brander) is hereby incorporated by reference. These compositions form a gel with the liquids exuded from the product contained in the tray 10. These gels are too bulky to pass back through the porous material 54 where the product 52 is located.

[0035] The preferred absorbent material 46 contains from about 10 to 90% by weight, preferably from about 50 to about 80% by weight, and most preferably from about 70 to 75% by weight polymer. The non-crosslinked gel forming polymer can be a cellulose derivative such as carboxymethylcellulose (CMC) and salts thereof, hydroxyethylcellulose, methylcellulose, hydroxypropylmethylcellulose, gelatinized starches, gelatin, dextrose, and other similar components, and may be a mixture of the above. Certain types and grades of CMC are approved for use with food items and are preferred when the absorbent is to be so used. The preferred polymer is a CMC, most preferably sodium salt of CMC having a degree of substitution of about 0.7 to 0.9. The degree of substitution refers to the proportion of hydroxyl groups in the cellulose molecule that have their hydrogen substituted by a carboxymethyl group. The viscosity of a 1% solution of CMC at 25 C., read on a Brookfield viscometer, should be in the range of about 2500 to 12,000 mPa.

[0036] The clay ingredient can be any of a variety of materials and is preferably attapulgite, montmorillonite (including bentonite clays such as hectorite), sericite, kaolin, diatomaceous earth, silica, and other similar materials, and mixtures thereof. Preferably, bentonite is used. Bentonite is a type of montmorillonite and is principally a colloidal hydrated aluminum silicate and contains varying quantities of iron, alkali, and alkaline earths. The preferred type of bentonite is hectorite which is mined from specific areas, principally in Nevada.

[0037] Diatomaceous earth is formed from the fossilized remains of diatoms, which are structured somewhat like honeycomb or sponge. Diatomaceous earth absorbs fluids without swelling by accumulating the fluids in the interstices of the structure.

[0038] The clay and diatomaceous earth are present in an amount from about 10-90% by weight, preferably about 20-30% by weight, however, some applications, such as when the absorbent material is to be used to absorb solutions having a high alkalinity, i.e. marinades for poultry, can incorporate up to about 50% diatomaceous earth. The diatomaceous earth can replace nearly all of the clay, with up to about 2% by weight remaining clay.

[0039] The trivalent cation is preferably provided in a soluble salt such as derived from aluminum sulfate, potassium aluminum sulfate, and other soluble salts of metal ions such as aluminum, chromium, and the like. Preferably, the trivalent cation is present at about 1 to 20%, most preferably at about 1 to 8%.

[0040] The inorganic buffer is one such as sodium carbonate (soda ash), sodium hexametaphosphate, sodium tripolyphosphate, and other similar materials. If a buffer is used, it is present preferably at about 0.6%, however beneficial results have been achieved with amounts up to about 15% by weight.

[0041] Absorption is defined as the increased weight achieved in an absorbent of the type described herein, following placement of such absorbent in a tray with 0.2% saline therein in such quantities as to not limit the access of the fluid to the absorbent for up to 72-96 hours until no further increase of weight is apparent. The net absorption is the difference between the final weight of the absorbent and the dry starting weight.

[0042] A significant synergistic effect is achieved in the absorption behavior of these blends, resulting in dramatic improvement in absorption capacity of the blends compared to the individual components. The mixture of the non-crosslinked gel forming polymer, trivalent cation, and clay forms an absorbent material which when hydrated has an improved gel strength over the non-crosslinked gel forming polymer alone. Further, the gel exhibits minimal syneresis, which is exudation of the liquid component of a gel.

[0043] In addition, the combined ingredients form an absorbent which has an absorbent capacity which exceeds the total absorbent capacity of the ingredients individually. It appears that the trivalent cation provides a cross-linking effect on the CMC once in solution, and that the clay swells to absorb and stabilize the gels. However, the mechanism of action and the synergistic effect is not yet clear. It is thought that perhaps a sufficient amount of trivalent cation is present in the bentonite and diatomaceous earth to provide the crosslinking effect.

[0044] The gels formed by the absorbent material are glass clear firm gels.

[0045] These absorbent materials are mixed together. It has been found that a preferred absorbent may be agglomerated by processing without the addition of chemicals in a compactor or disk type granulator or similar device to produce granules of uniform and controllable particle size. Granules so formed act as an absorbent with increased rate and capacity of absorption due to the increased surface area of the absorbent.

[0046] As the tray 10 is designed to be tilted as illustrated in FIG. 4 the absorbent material 46 may be run a short distance up each side wall 14 and 16 where a liquid exuding from or accompanying the product 52 is likely to collect. The porous sheet 54 is placed over the absorbent material 46 and may extend a short distance up the side walls 14 and 16 past the absorbent material 46 and may be bonded to the side walls by heat sealing, applying an adhesive or other suitable means.

[0047] The porous sheet 54 forms an additional support surface for the products as the material spans the gaps formed between the ribs to form a “false bottom” support surface in the bottom of the tray 10. Once products, such eviscerated chicken 52, are placed on the porous material 54, any liquids exuded from the products are able to flow through the porous material 54 and into the absorbent material 46 in the various liquid collection cavities 32, 34, 36, 38, 40 and 42. The porous material 54 tends to retain the absorbent material 46 beneath the false bottom before and after the liquid is absorbed by the absorbent material 46 with the absorbent material taking up the fluid, and in some cases, forming it into a gel structure. In this manner, liquids exuded from the food products are substantially prevented from reentering the area where the food product is stored and contaminating the food product, thereby, limiting the impact of food spoilage organisms, and organisms that might impact on the health of the consumer. Additionally, since the absorbent material 46 is contained below the false bottom, the absorbent material 46 is not compressed by the weight of the product and therefore, is able to absorb and retain greater quantities of food as compared to known prior art devices.

[0048] The porous sheet hides the liquid, absorbent material and any gel formed thereby from view, so the potential customer can view the chicken or other product without viewing the liquid exuded from the product. This also keeps the liquid away from the customer when opening the package.

[0049] It should be appreciated that the side ribs 28 and 30 act like a terrace or dam formed on a hill when the tray 10 is tilted as best illustrated in FIG. 4. The side rib 28 acts as a dam and prevents most of the liquid in the interior liquid collection cavity 40 from flowing to side wall 14 as illustrated in FIG. 4. The liquid that flows down into the interior liquid collection cavity 40 tends to form a liquid pool 50 adjacent side rib 28. Much of this liquid pool 50 will be absorbed by the absorbent material 46, but at least some portion that is not absorbed is likely to be prevented from flowing downward by side rib 28. The absorbent material 46 in side liquid collection cavities 32 or 34 will absorb the liquid exuding from the product and also any liquid that overflows side rib 28. Any liquid that is not absorbed on the absorbent material 46 will form a pool at the bottom of side liquid collection cavity 32 and may extend a short distance up side wall 14 where the absorbent material 46 is also placed.

[0050] The side liquid collection cavities 32 or 34 are located at the lowest position of all portions of the tray when the tray is shingle stacked on one of its sides, as shown in FIG. 4. This assures that all free liquid that tends to flow down the sloped base of the tray will enter the lower side liquid collection cavity 32 or 34. The liquid that enters the lower side liquid collection cavity is likely to be absorbed by the absorbent material and retained below the porous sheet.

[0051] Modifications to the side ribs 28 and 30 are shown in FIGS. 5-7. Overflow notches 60 are formed in the top surfaces of the side ribs 28 and 30 so as to form recessed drains at a level below the porous material 54. The porous material is supported on the tops of the ribs so that a gap is formed by the notches below the porous material, allowing any excess liquid to flow over the side ribs without passing back through the porous material and without contacting the chicken.

[0052] The foregoing description has been presented for the purpose of illustration and description. It is not intended to be exhaustive or to limit the invention to the precise forms disclosed. Modifications or variations are possible in light of the above teachings. The embodiment or embodiments discussed, however, were chosen and described to provide the best illustration of the principles of the invention and its practical application to thereby enable one of ordinary skill in the art to utilize the invention in various embodiments and with various modifications as are suited to the particular use contemplated. All such modifications and variations are within the scope of the invention as determined by the appended claims when interpreted in accordance with the breadth to which they are fairly and legally entitled.

Referenced by
Citing PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
US7381437May 25, 2004Jun 3, 2008Brander William MFor storing and displaying foods and other products that bear liquids that are likely to be exuded; side cavities tilted so that the bottom tray wall is in a spread U-shaped configuration; liquid absorbent in tray cavities, which are covered by porous sheet on which product is placed and covered
US7585530Oct 25, 2006Sep 8, 2009Paper-Pak IndustriesMulti-phase bacterial inhibition food pad comprising absorbent or superabsorbent medium, one or more organic acid bacterial inhibitors, an O2 scavenging system comprising one or more metal oxidation components, one or more enzyme catalyzed oxidation components; enhanced food safety, preservation
US7637387 *Sep 21, 2007Dec 29, 2009Christopher Ralph CantolinoFluid collection and drain pan with integrated strength-enhancing structure
US7799361Jan 19, 2006Sep 21, 2010Paper Pak IndustriesMulti-phase bacterial inhibition food pad comprising absorbent or superabsorbent medium, one or more organic acid bacterial inhibitors, an O2 scavenging system comprising one or more metal oxidation components, one or more enzyme catalyzed oxidation components; enhanced food safety, preservation
US7921992 *Nov 14, 2006Apr 12, 2011Pactiv CorporationContainer having internal reservoir
US8083887May 14, 2007Dec 27, 2011Pactiv CorporationMethod of forming a container having an internal reservoir
US8893917 *Mar 7, 2012Nov 25, 2014Camco Manufacturing, Inc.Overflow pan for a water heater and method
US20130320023 *May 30, 2013Dec 5, 2013Multivac Sepp Haggenmuller Gmbh & Co. KgTray-shaped packaging
Classifications
U.S. Classification206/204, 220/571
International ClassificationB65D81/26
Cooperative ClassificationB65D81/264
European ClassificationB65D81/26E
Legal Events
DateCodeEventDescription
Dec 26, 2002ASAssignment
Owner name: MAXWELL CHASE TECHNOLOGIES, LLC, GEORGIA
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNOR:BRANDER, WILLIAM M.;REEL/FRAME:013614/0455
Effective date: 20021217