Today's forks, knives, and spoons look a lot like they did centuries ago. And so does the new iFork—with one massive difference: Part of it hovers over the table.
"It's a real cool design," said Kyle Donovan, the cutlery line's inventor.
By adding a small bead of steel on the underside of each piece, the business end of iFork products rise a few millimeters. There's enough clearance to easily slide a small stack of paper between a utensil and the tabletop.
"It's actually been bothering me for years that my flatware would touch surfaces," Donovan said.
Donovan says tables – especially restaurant tables – a teeming with stuff that will make us sick.
"It was a surprise to me how many germs and bacteria live on surfaces," he continued.
The iFork website makes reference to the dangers of E. Coli, influenza, Norovirus, and staph infections.
Donovan said the less contact there is between a utensil and a tabletop, the healthy a diner is.
We enlisted microbiologist Shannon McQuaig, Ph.D., to sample who filthy dining tables might be.
We visited four different restaurants – unannounced and at random. At each eatery, McQuaiq swabbed a 25-square-centimeter box. As she ran a cotton swab over across the surface, a chemical solution went to work.
"[It's] picking up any bacteria that was in the 25 square centimeters," she said.
McQuaiq, an instructor at St. Petersburg College, returned to her lab and transferred the samples onto plates. She then allowed the bacteria to grow for 24 hours inside an incubator.
The next day, McQuaiq found bacteria.
"But not on all the plates," she said.
McQuaiq said she found an average of 43 bacteria growths per sample, which she said is safe.
"There's less bacteria on the tables than on a human hand," she explained. "It's probably safe to eat with the fork resting on the table."
Donovan said his company's tests have yielded different results and that the iFork isn't entirely about germs.
Practically speaking, the elevated cutlery could prevent stains on tablecloths, for example.
Donovan pointed to the sloppy knife that butters bread.
"It's really cool, because the butter is not on the table," he said. "It just really makes sense."
iFork is available for purchase on the company website, www.ifork.com. As of this writing, a six-place set, including 30 pieces, was selling for $99.
In addition, Donovan said plastic versions of the iFork are available. Shoppers will find them in Wal-Mart stores, he said.