US20080202977A1 - Meal Component System - Google Patents

Meal Component System Download PDF

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Publication number
US20080202977A1
US20080202977A1 US11911087 US91108706A US2008202977A1 US 20080202977 A1 US20080202977 A1 US 20080202977A1 US 11911087 US11911087 US 11911087 US 91108706 A US91108706 A US 91108706A US 2008202977 A1 US2008202977 A1 US 2008202977A1
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Prior art keywords
meal
tray
cavities
components
component
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Abandoned
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US11911087
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Kaj F. Knudsen
Richard Eugene Ludwick
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Nestec SA
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Nestec SA
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    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B65CONVEYING; PACKING; STORING; HANDLING THIN OR FILAMENTARY MATERIAL
    • B65DCONTAINERS FOR STORAGE OR TRANSPORT OF ARTICLES OR MATERIALS, e.g. BAGS, BARRELS, BOTTLES, BOXES, CANS, CARTONS, CRATES, DRUMS, JARS, TANKS, HOPPERS, FORWARDING CONTAINERS; ACCESSORIES, CLOSURES, OR FITTINGS THEREFOR; PACKAGING ELEMENTS; PACKAGES
    • B65D1/00Containers having bodies formed in one piece, e.g. by casting metallic material, by moulding plastics, by blowing vitreous material, by throwing ceramic material, by moulding pulped fibrous material, by deep-drawing operations performed on sheet material
    • B65D1/34Trays or like shallow containers
    • B65D1/36Trays or like shallow containers with moulded compartments or partitions
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B65CONVEYING; PACKING; STORING; HANDLING THIN OR FILAMENTARY MATERIAL
    • B65DCONTAINERS FOR STORAGE OR TRANSPORT OF ARTICLES OR MATERIALS, e.g. BAGS, BARRELS, BOTTLES, BOXES, CANS, CARTONS, CRATES, DRUMS, JARS, TANKS, HOPPERS, FORWARDING CONTAINERS; ACCESSORIES, CLOSURES, OR FITTINGS THEREFOR; PACKAGING ELEMENTS; PACKAGES
    • B65D81/00Containers, packaging elements, or packages, for contents presenting particular transport or storage problems, or adapted to be used for non-packaging purposes after removal of contents
    • B65D81/34Containers, packaging elements, or packages, for contents presenting particular transport or storage problems, or adapted to be used for non-packaging purposes after removal of contents for packaging foodstuffs or other articles intended to be cooked or heated within the package
    • B65D81/343Containers, packaging elements, or packages, for contents presenting particular transport or storage problems, or adapted to be used for non-packaging purposes after removal of contents for packaging foodstuffs or other articles intended to be cooked or heated within the package specially adapted to be heated in a conventional oven, e.g. a gas or electric resistance oven
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B65CONVEYING; PACKING; STORING; HANDLING THIN OR FILAMENTARY MATERIAL
    • B65DCONTAINERS FOR STORAGE OR TRANSPORT OF ARTICLES OR MATERIALS, e.g. BAGS, BARRELS, BOTTLES, BOXES, CANS, CARTONS, CRATES, DRUMS, JARS, TANKS, HOPPERS, FORWARDING CONTAINERS; ACCESSORIES, CLOSURES, OR FITTINGS THEREFOR; PACKAGING ELEMENTS; PACKAGES
    • B65D2581/00Containers, packaging elements, or packages, for contents presenting particular transport or storage problems, or adapted to be used for non-packaging purposes after removal of contents
    • B65D2581/34Containers, packaging elements, or packages, for contents presenting particular transport or storage problems, or adapted to be used for non-packaging purposes after removal of contents for packaging foodstuffs or other articles intended to be cooked or heated within
    • B65D2581/3401Cooking or heating method specially adapted to the contents of the package
    • B65D2581/3402Cooking or heating method specially adapted to the contents of the package characterised by the type of product to be heated or cooked
    • B65D2581/3425Cooking a complete meal, e.g. TV-dinners
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B65CONVEYING; PACKING; STORING; HANDLING THIN OR FILAMENTARY MATERIAL
    • B65DCONTAINERS FOR STORAGE OR TRANSPORT OF ARTICLES OR MATERIALS, e.g. BAGS, BARRELS, BOTTLES, BOXES, CANS, CARTONS, CRATES, DRUMS, JARS, TANKS, HOPPERS, FORWARDING CONTAINERS; ACCESSORIES, CLOSURES, OR FITTINGS THEREFOR; PACKAGING ELEMENTS; PACKAGES
    • B65D81/00Containers, packaging elements, or packages, for contents presenting particular transport or storage problems, or adapted to be used for non-packaging purposes after removal of contents
    • B65D81/34Containers, packaging elements, or packages, for contents presenting particular transport or storage problems, or adapted to be used for non-packaging purposes after removal of contents for packaging foodstuffs or other articles intended to be cooked or heated within the package
    • B65D81/3446Containers, packaging elements, or packages, for contents presenting particular transport or storage problems, or adapted to be used for non-packaging purposes after removal of contents for packaging foodstuffs or other articles intended to be cooked or heated within the package specially adapted to be heated by microwaves
    • B65D81/3453Rigid containers, e.g. trays, bottles, boxes, cups

Abstract

A food preparation method and system comprising: a tray (100) having at least two distinctly shaped cavities (10,20) for storing and reheating meal components, wherein the cavities contain meal components and define a space such that the meal components are reheated at an approximately even rate.

Description

    BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
  • Food trays that hold frozen foods are typically of a suitable size (½ pan size) to fit in a food service operator's equipment device and hold one complete meal all together. In this format there is no possibility for modifying the meal according to consumer preferences. Thus, a variety of different meals must be purchased and stored as inventory in order to accommodate consumer preferences. In some instances meal components can be purchased in bulk packages which can be prepared and portioned into individual meals. However with this format, meal components can be wasted or must be stored when only part of a bulk package is needed. In addition, the process of portioning out individual servings is not as efficient as with prepackaged meals.
  • WO 98/12937 discloses a process for the preparation of a frozen meal. The process involves putting the components of the meal into rectangular brick-shaped molds, subjecting the filled moulds to a freezing step, removing the frozen meal from the mold, and packaging the deep frozen meal in cardboard boxes. The trays are inconvenient in that the units are not proportioned to provide an appropriate size for single serving.
  • WO 03/090568 discloses a method for producing a deep-frozen, disc shaped unit of processed food and for preparing it for consumption. The invention relates to a deep-frozen processed food product consisting of at least two different, separate constituents which together form a compact individual unit in the shape of a disk when frozen. The food product is said to be conveniently prepared. However, the food product is not portionable in that one disc provides one meal which cannot be easily split into its component parts. Thus, to prepare a variety of different meals the operator would be required to purchase separate products.
  • DE 19944500 discloses a food frozen into portion-sized blocks which avoids preparation of excess quantities after thawing. In an industrial scale process for freeze food, the food is first prepared for and deposited into forms. The food is then part-frozen and divided into portions, which are subsequently positioned in a fixed regular space-saving relationship and are then packaged. The manufacturing of such products is complex.
  • Thus, a new food service meal component system is needed that can provide a single plate serving of 2 or 3 components that can be easily prepared by an operator and easily manufactured by a manufacturer. The system should provide portionability so that component portions of the meal can easily be switched as desired by the consumer. The system should also provide flexibility such that portions can be exchanged to provide greater variability in the content of the meal being produced. For example, with 3 distinct protein components, 3 starch components and 3 different vegetable components a total of 27 combinations should be easily produced by selection of the appropriate components. Likewise, with four offerings for each of the protein, vegetable and starch components, a total of 64 different meals should be easily produced.
  • SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
  • The present invention provides, in an embodiment, a unique molded packaging in a new meal component system. The system provides portioned components that provide for convenient flexible meal preparation. The individual meal portions can be prepared such that each component can be reconstituted together and will be fully reconstituted at nearly the same time regardless of the combination of components that are selected for the meal. Thus, meals can be reconstituted together and meats, for example, will not be under cooked or vegetables over cooked.
  • In an embodiment, each component in the system contains a suitable amount of food for one serving. One plate serving can consist of 2, 3 or more components, as desired, for a complete meal.
  • In an embodiment the food preparation system includes a tray having at least two distinctly shaped cavities for storing and reheating meal components, wherein the cavities contain meal components and define a space such that the meal components are reheated at an approximately even rate. The cavities in the packaging hold food portions and are designed to be of such a shape and dimension to allow the foods to be reconstituted under the same conditions, regardless of the food composition. Under these circumstances different food portions can all be reconstituted together using the same conditions and will be fully reconstituted at nearly the same, or preferably at the same point in time. The geometry and size of the cavities are therefore dependent on the foods contained within them such that all meal components. For example, faster cooking foods may be of a geometric shape that has less surface area per unit of volume. Slower cooking foods may be held in containers having a higher surface area to volume ratio. Protein rich components, such as meats can be contained in a more shallow half moon shaped container that has greater surface area. This improves reconstitution of protein rich foods compared to when they are contained in cylindrical shapes.
  • Any suitable packaging can be used. The packaging of the food preparation system can be rigid, semi-rigid or flexible. The material must be able to withstand a range of temperatures that can range from freezing to cooking temperatures and ideally is also stable on exposure to microwave radiation. For example, suitable packaging for storing individual meal components can include flexible trays which can be sealed, boil-in-bag packages, molded flexible plastic polyethylene phthalate or any type of packaging that can hold its shape until its meal components can be frozen. The packaging should be somewhat resistant to volume changes that can occur as the foods are heated and cooled; however volume changes of up to about 20% or 25% can be tolerated. However, no tray is required and a component can be packaged as an isolated bag in a box. The cavities or wells in tray embodiments have a suitable size or volume to contain one portion of food that constitutes a meal component. In addition, the shapes can be geometrically configured to fit on a plate.
  • In an embodiment, the food preparation system includes a rigid meal tray made of a material that can be frozen, cooked and microwaved with food in place. Suitable materials include crystallized polyethylene terephthalate, amorphous polyethylene terephthalate, and polypropylene.
  • In an embodiment, the food preparation system includes a flexible meal component tray made of a material that can be frozen and remain flexible and that can receive hot cooked foods. Suitable materials include but are not limited to polypropylene or copolymer blends. In an embodiment the flexible meal component tray wells have a fixed, regular spaced relationship.
  • With this system a variety of meal components can be purchased by a food preparer and stored in a freezer until needed. The various meal components desired by a consumer can be selected, removed from the packaging or cases and reconstituted. The individual components can be removed either by tearing off or cutting away the entire cavity from the tray or packaging, or the component can be popped out of the cavity. In some circumstances it may even be appropriate to reconstitute all the components from an entire case and this method can also be carried out using the packaging disclosed herein.
  • In a method the system can be implemented by placing the individual packaged components on a plate where they can be reconstituted.
  • Using the disclosed packaging, meals can be conveniently prepared by inverting a meal component in its packaging on a plate and microwaving the dish with the meal components in their wells or cavities. Alternatively, the meal can be heated in an oven in this configuration. In fact reconstitution can be by any standard method including for example, combination oven/microwave, a convection oven, a microwave, a standard oven, boiling (particularly with food stored in boiling bags or other heating chamber. In this method the meal trays provide a protective shield during reconstitution in ovens and microwaves.
  • There are a number of advantages achieved by the present invention. This system provides greater flexibility in meal compositions by providing a food service operator the ability to vary the components in a meal. To this end a variety of foods can be prepared and dosed into the cavities of the packaging for storage. Then individual components can be selected and placed together on a plate and reconstituted. This system allows a food service provider to better meet the needs of variable consumer diets in a convenient manner. For example, low salt or low carbohydrate components could be chosen for a meal as needed for health reasons or based on consumer preferences. In addition, the meal component packaging can be easily manufactured by directly dosing prepared food meal components into the segregated compartments or cavities of the packaging material. The food storage packaging also allows freezing and can be self-enclosed packaging to facilitate shipping. Using this system each component can be reconstituted to its optimal desired quality and be of a comparable quality to homemade meals or meals that would be expected in a high quality restaurt.
  • In an embodiment, the invention provides a method for providing a variety of meals by preparing a variety of foods and directly dosing the foods into separate wells of a flexible meal tray where they are stored as meal components. The meal components can then be individually selected and transferred to a plate or baking dish where they can be reconstituted for consumption or stored. Using this method a large number of meal combinations can be prepared from a relatively small number of meal components. Preferably, different foods are stored in different meal component storage trays or packages.
  • The foods can include protein such as meats or vegetables, fruits, starches and their mixtures and can be directly dosed into wells of separate storage trays or packages.
  • Additional features and advantages of the present invention are described in, and will be apparent from, the following Detailed Description of the Invention and the Figures.
  • BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE FIGURES
  • FIG. 1 a illustrates a vertical view of the top of an embodiment of the meal tray.
  • FIG. 1 b illustrates a vertical view of the bottom of an embodiment of the meal tray.
  • FIG. 2 a illustrates a vertical view of an embodiment of one portion of the meal tray.
  • FIG. 2 b illustrates a horizontal view of the embodiment of FIG. 2 a.
  • FIG. 2 c illustrates a vertical view of an embodiment of one portion of the meal tray.
  • FIG. 2 d illustrates a horizontal view of the embodiment of FIG. 2 c.
  • FIG. 3 illustrates a meal tray having cup-shaped wells.
  • FIG. 4 illustrates a meal tray having semicircular-shaped wells.
  • DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION
  • The present invention in an embodiment provides unique molded flexible meal tray and in another embodiment a rigid meal tray in a new meal component system. The trays provide a number of preshaped cavities or wells into which the components of a meal can be placed. As used herein the terms cavity and well are used in a broad sense to include a space in a tray that can receive product. Although the rigid meal tray could contain any number of preshaped wells, it will generally contain about 2, 3, 4, 5, or more wells having a suitable size such that a satisfying meal can be provided to an individual. Preferably, the food wells on the meal trays have a geometry and a size such that, when heated, all components are simultaneously ready for consumption.
  • An embodiment of the rigid meal tray is illustrated in FIGS. 1A and 1B. FIG. 1A illustrates a view of the top surface of a rigid meal tray. Three molds are provided in the tray, including two round molds 10 and a semicircular mold 20. As illustrated in the elevated view of the underside of the tray, round molds 10 and semicircular mold 20 protrude from the bottom side of the tray.
  • As indicated previously, the wells in the meal tray have a volume that is sufficient to provide individual servings for a meal. Thus, referring to FIGS. 2A and 2C the inside diameter of one embodiment of cup-shaped mold 10 at the bottom can be about 2.25 inches, the inside diameter of the top of the mold can be about 2.625 inches and the mold can be about 2.125 inches in high. As illustrated in FIGS. 2C and 2D the semicircular well is tapered such that its dimensions are smaller at its bottom. Thus, in the illustrated embodiment at the upper edge of the semicircular well, the longest dimension can be about 6 inches and its width can be about 3 inches and the depth of the well can be about 1.25 inches. Tapered walls bring the lower edge of the well inward by about 0.25 inches, as illustrated.
  • The rigid meal tray can be prepared from any material that can be microwaved or baked while containing food. For example, suitable materials include crystallized polyethylene terephthalate (C-PET), amorphous polyethylene terephthalate (A-PET), polypropylene and the like. Numerous methods are known for producing such molds and can be used.
  • The invention also provides a flexible meal tray. Preferably, the flexible meal tray is capable of holding 2 or more meal component preparations, or 6, or even 12 or more single meal component preparations or any integral number of meal components that can be conveniently stored. The meal trays can be used by adding foods directly into the wells in the tray which, preferably, have a fixed regular spaced and space-saving relationship and the trays can then be then frozen and packaged. The meal trays can be sealed or vacuum sealed prior to packaging by standard methods.
  • Although the flexible meal trays could hold any variety of components, preferably a single tray will hold a single type of food in the form of a meal component. The shapes of the molds in the flexible trays can be substantially similar to the shapes in the rigid meal tray so that food products can be dosed into the wells of either tray by a manufacturer and cooked by a meal provider using similar procedures.
  • Several embodiments of the flexible trays are provided in FIGS. 3 and 4. As illustrated, the containers contain wells in a fixed regularly spaced arrangement. FIGS. 3 and 4 show flexible meal trays having cup-shaped wells (FIG. 3) and semicircular-shaped wells (FIG. 4).
  • The meal component system provides for efficient meal preparation that can easily be adapted based on individual consumer preferences. A variety of flexible meal trays holding different meal components can be stored and individual components can be selected for preparation according to individual preference. Meal components from the meal component storage trays can easily be popped out of the tray when the food is in the frozen state and can be combined on a dish and reconstituted.
  • Once food components are placed in the rigid meal tray, the meal tray can be sealed by any suitable means. For example, in different embodiments the tray can be sealed with a paper, paper board, or copolymer film and kept frozen until use. The tray can also be vacuum sealed. Alternatively, the tray can be heated immediately and prepared for a meal. Once the food products are heated to a suitable temperature the meal can be transferred to a plate and served to a consumer.
  • The flexible meal trays of the invention can be prepared from materials that are compatible with hot and frozen foods, including polypropylene and various copolymer blends, as are known. Suitable materials remain sufficiently pliable when stored food is in the frozen state to allow for the frozen meal component to be easily removed by popping them out of the well in the tray and transferred to a plate for reconstitution.
  • Preferably, trays of the invention are of a suitable size to fit in operator food storage and preparation equipment. For example, trays can be of a size to conveniently fit in a ½ pan line and can be configured to fit in known foodservice cases.
  • Both the flexible meal tray and the rigid meal tray allow direct dosing of food products into segregated compartments, allow freezing, and provide self-enclosed packaging for shipping. In addition, the meal tray cavities can be used as a protective shields during reconstitution in ovens or microwaves.
  • The meal trays assist with reconstitution by serving as a splatter shields and also by containing the food products in the inverted cavities while they are cooked. The meal tray having the desired components can be selected and then inverted on a plate and cooked with the meal components in place in the wells. In this configuration each of the meal components can be prepared at the same time and the wells will prevent the foods from mixing as they cook, and will prevent splatters. The rigid meal tray holds its shape and provides for even cooking between products without over cooking any components. Meals can be either microwaved or baked using this method.
  • Many prepared frozen foods are known and can be used to fill the wells of the trays in the present invention. The unique food packaging system of the invention can be used to prepare simple home dinners of chef quality products of the type normally only obtained in restaurants. Suitable meals can include for example two or three components such as a protein (beef, pork, fish, including a sauce), vegetables (carrots, spinach, broccoli, veggie mixes, for example), and starches (rice, pasta, mashed potatoes) and/or desserts. In particular with pasta it has been learned that about 10 to 20 grams of water can be added to the bottom of a cavity prior to the addition of the pasta component. Then when the pasta is reconstituted, the package is placed bottom up on a plate and the water prevents the pasta from drying out during reconstitution.
  • It should be understood that various changes and modifications to the presently preferred embodiments described herein will be apparent to those skilled in the art. Such changes and modifications can be made without departing from the spirit and scope of the present invention and without diminishing its intended advantages. It is therefore intended that such changes and modifications be covered by the appended claims.

Claims (25)

  1. 1. A food preparation system comprising: a tray having at least two distinctly shaped cavities for storing and reheating meal components, the cavities containing meal components and defining a space so constructed and arranged that the meal components are reheated at an approximately even rate.
  2. 2. The food preparation system of claim 1, comprising a frozen meal component within a cavity of the tray that can be removed from the tray while substantially frozen.
  3. 3. The food preparation system of claim 1, wherein the tray is scored allowing a cavity containing a meal component be torn from the tray.
  4. 4. The food preparation system of claim 1, wherein the meal tray comprises at least three cavities.
  5. 5. The food preparation system of claim 1, wherein the meal tray comprises at least three cavities and at least two of the cavities have distinct shapes.
  6. 6. The food preparation system of claim 1, wherein the meal tray is made of a material that has properties selected from the group consisting of it can be frozen, cooked in an oven and microwaved with food in place.
  7. 7. The food preparation system of claim 1, wherein the meal tray is made of a material selected from the group of materials consisting of crystallized polyethylene terephthalate, amorphous polyethylene terephthalate, and polypropylene.
  8. 8. The food preparation system of claim 1, wherein the meal tray is made of a food grade material that can be frozen and remain flexible and can receive hot cooked foods.
  9. 9. The food preparation system of claim 1, wherein the tray is made of a food grade material that can be frozen and can receive hot cooked foods selected from the group of food grade materials consisting of crystallized polyethylene terephthalate, amorphous polyethylene terephthalate, and polypropylene and their blends.
  10. 10. The food preparation system of claim 1, wherein the meal tray cavities have a fixed, regular spaced relationship.
  11. 11. The food preparation system of claim 1, wherein the meal tray cavities are circular and semicircular cylinders and have a fixed, regular spaced relationship.
  12. 12. The food preparation system of claim 1, wherein the meal tray cavities are cylindrical and semicircular cylinders and have a fixed, regular spaced relationship and the volume ratio between the cylindrical and semicircular cylinders is about 0.75 to 1.
  13. 13. A method for preparing a meal comprising:
    preparing a meal tray having at least two cavities for reheating at least two meal components;
    preparing a batch of food and selecting a portion of the batch as a meal component,
    placing a meal component in a cavity of the tray such that the meal components heat at an approximately even rate; and
    reconstituting the meal component.
  14. 14. The method of claim 13, wherein the meal components are frozen.
  15. 15. The method of claim 13, wherein a meal component is removed from the meal tray by removing the component from the cavity and placing the meal component on a plate.
  16. 16. The method of claim 13, wherein a meal component is removed from the meal tray by separating a cavity containing a meal component from the flexible meal tray, placing the separated cavity containing the meal component on a plate.
  17. 17. The method of claim 13, wherein the method of reconstituting the meal component is selected from the group of methods consisting of microwaving, heating in an oven or their combinations.
  18. 18. A food preparation system comprising: a meal tray having at least two cavities for reheating at least two meal components for storing meal components, the cavities contain meal components and define a space so constructed and arranged that the meal components can be reheated at an approximately even rate.
  19. 19. The method for preparing a meal of claim 13, wherein the meal is prepared by inverting a cavity of the tray on a plate and microwaving the plate, inverted cavity and meal component.
  20. 20. The method for preparing a meal of claim 13, wherein the meal is prepared by inverting a cavity of the tray on a plate and heating the plate, inverted cavity and meal component in an oven.
  21. 21. The method for preparing a meal of claim 13, further comprising freezing the meal component.
  22. 22. A method for providing a variety of meals comprising:
    preparing a variety of foods,
    directly dosing the foods into separate cavities of a meal tray as meal components, the meal tray, containing at least two cavities, the cavities of the trays have a suitable shape and volume for providing a suitable portion of a meal to a consumer,
    removing two or more meal components from the tray and placing them on a plate, and
    reconstituting the meal components to provide a meal.
  23. 23. The method for providing a variety of meals of claim 22, wherein the foods are selected from the group consisting of a protein, vegetables, fruits, starches and their mixtures.
  24. 24. The method for providing a variety of meals of claim 22, wherein separate foods are directly dosed into wells of separate flexible meal trays.
  25. 25. A food tray comprising: a tray having at least two cavities, the cavities contain two separate meal components and define a space that is so constructed and arranged that the meal components when reheated, are reheated at an approximately even rate.
US11911087 2005-04-12 2006-04-12 Meal Component System Abandoned US20080202977A1 (en)

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US67046205 true 2005-04-12 2005-04-12
US60670462 2005-04-12
PCT/EP2006/061543 WO2006108851A3 (en) 2005-04-12 2006-04-12 Meal component system
US11911087 US20080202977A1 (en) 2005-04-12 2006-04-12 Meal Component System

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EP1871685A2 (en) 2008-01-02 application
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CA2604872A1 (en) 2006-10-19 application
WO2006108851A3 (en) 2007-01-18 application

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