New Products With a Sense of Humor

Times Staff Writer

Proving that the food industry does indeed have a sense of humor are several unusual products currently making debuts.

Topping this list of whimsical items is Lightron--the perfect product for those who get impatient when their glass is empty.

Lightron looks like a two-inch-high coaster whose sides are adorned with five tiny red lights. The lights remain dark until a glass, bottle or can is placed atop the holder. Then the pressure from the container switches on the bulbs that, theoretically, get the attention of cocktail servers or bartenders.


Needless to say, it would be somewhat impractical for individuals to carry their own battery-powered Lightrons out on the town when the possibility exists that they’ll be having more than one drink. So, the item’s inventors, Intromark Inc. of Pittsburgh, hope to entice restaurants and bars to purchase the gadgets in bulk by offering to emblaze them with an establishment’s logo.

Even so, those looking for better service at home can purchase Lightron at a retail price of $5.95.

Lightron’s market share could be cut, however, with the advent of another drinking aid. In fact, La Jolla-based entrepreneur Michael del Rey makes it clear that there’s never a need to worry about a refill with his latest invention.

A tube-encircled, constructionlike helmet with beverage holders, called the Yuppie Hat, allows one to drink without ever bothering to lift a hand or a glass. In fact, this innovation borrows heavily from the intravenous feeding concept because wearers effortlessly sip their drinks through a mouthpiece that is connected to the tubing and containers.

Not only does this high-profile headgear allow for a complete line of vision while quenching thirsts, it is equipped with two drink holders. An on/off switch also provides an “uninterrupted flow of one’s favorite beverage.” The product retails for $14.95 and is meant to appeal to those sports fans who dislike putting down their binoculars in order to sip on a drink.

Del Rey claims to have sold more than 30,000 of these cerebral thermoses in Southern California alone and is having trouble filling orders for 10,000 more.


Obviously, no Yuppie Hat would be complete without an accompanying carry-along game that tests mental agility. And those masters of minutiae, Trivial Pursuit, are now presenting the Fortune Cookie Game.

This novelty consists of 48 fortune cookies containing questions that may be even more obscure than the statements found in the traditional Chinese meal-ending snacks. The queries will be inside the cookie, but “to keep everyone honest” the answers will be on a separate sheet.

The game retails for $19.95 and is available mostly in department stores.

And There’s Even More--The chronicle of innovation in the food industry, New Product News, reports on some other faintly bizarre items in its latest issue.

For people who love pizza but dislike touching the dough, there’s Pizza in a Cup. Pax International Foods of Medford, N.Y., is testing bite-size pieces of pizza in a handy-size container. The company is limiting its line to a simple cheese topping at this time. Two (six-ounce) servings sell for $1.98.

Another new product combines aliens with Italian cuisine: Chef Boyardee’s Smurfs Pasta. The Smurfs are placed in a can and seasoned with various sauces and flavors. A 15-ounce serving of Smurfs sells for 89 cents.

Then there’s always Rambo Bubble Gum. This new item by Topps Chewing Gum Co. is meant to compete with Wrigley’s Rambo Black Flak Bubble Gum. Topps may have the edge in this macho gum battle because it also provides cards and stickers in its packages.


Finally, there is a precedent-setting product that may bring the likes of McDonald’s, Burger King and Carl’s Jr. out of their fast-food emporiums and into the supermarket. Some Easterners and Midwesterners will be glad to know that White Castle restaurants are now selling their hamburgers through food stores. The tiny, White Castle burgers come fully cooked and frozen. There are 10 in a package, considered a typical serving, and preparation requires reheating only.

Right Class; Wrong Bacteria--There was embarrassment throughout the Stanislaus County, California, School District several months ago as the result of a blunder in one of the area’s junior high schools, according to California Morbidity, a newsletter from the state’s Health Services Department.

In one of the school’s foods courses, an instructor brought punch and snacks to class for the students. Minutes after the concoction of juices, fruit punch, sugar and water was consumed, 29 of the 33 students became ill with a variety of symptoms, including vomiting, cramps, dizziness or headaches, according to the report.

The problem was diagnosed as heavy metal poisoning that originated in the drink container--a galvanized metal cooler with a corroded interior. The water was also suspect because it came from the instructor’s private well.

“Heavy metal poisoning is rarely reported in the (United States), and the fact that this outbreak occurred in a food course (where safe food handling should be stressed and where the food was even prepared by the instructor) makes this one all the more remarkable,” the newsletter stated.

In this particular case, health officials reported that the acidic beverage reacted with the container’s underlying zinc interior to produce the toxic substance.