In buildings with vulnerable populations — such as hospitals and schools — it is even more imperative for infection risks to be mitigated.

Sanitation is also an issue for those who operate restaurants and fast-food services. A major outbreak of the flu or a foodborne illness could potentially put these establishments out of business. That’s why so many of these facilities are embracing alternative cutlery dispenser options.

Over the past few years, manufacturers have worked to develop single-use cutlery dispenser products that prevent the spread of disease and infection by eliminating the open handling of utensils.

The containers, which are shaped like small towers, contain a “magazine-like” chamber, which holds a stack of the appropriate utensils. Because the cutlery is enclosed, the utensils are protected from public handling, and shielded from the wet droplets produced by coughing and sneezing.

Cafeteria visitors simply push a lever to release a single utensil and go on their way — without touching any other flatware. Some manufacturers have taken the hygienic concept a bit further by introducing motion-sensored, touchless dispensers, and a removable, dishwasher-safe tray.

Kevin Curtin, regional sales director for Philadelphia-based Penn Jersey Paper, calls the new cutlery dispensers “the wave of the future.”

“This is a big concern to many large institutions,” says Curtin. “I think we will see these cutlery dispensers in more locations. It is amazing that the boards of health even allow cutlery to be dispensed in bulk in this day and age. No one wants to see germs being spread by utensils.”

Recent food illness outbreaks and various global health crises have made people appreciate public sanitation more than ever before, says Scott Attman, director of business development for Acme Paper and Supply, in Savage, Md.

“We find that when people eat in a public facility they like to see that efforts are being made to create a healthy environment,” Attman says. “It makes people feel better.”

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