The US market for packaged bagels is nearly $700 million annually. Whether fresh or frozen, Americans enjoy the chewy, round bread with the hole in the middle as a breakfast food, or snack. But the bagel isn't just delectable; it's dangerous.
Since packaged bagels became available in the 1970's, the average American enjoys 11.6 bagels at home every year. But each of these bagels is an opportunity for disaster; bagel-related injuries (BRIs) send as many as 2,000 Americans to the hospital annually. On Saturday and Sunday mornings they are the main cause for emergency room visits.
But why the bagel? Why not bread, or English muffins? Well, many gourmets choose to blame the bagel's manufacturing technique: A traditional bagel is boiled, then baked. This results in a soft chewy center, but a smooth and sleek exterior that is difficult to penetrate. So the average bagel lover takes the bagel in hand and then uses a knife to forcibly pierce the bagel's outer layer. But as the knife reaches the soft chewy center so much force is no longer necessary and well ů the rest is simply physics.
The most common injuries include the laceration of the palm when holding the bagel parallel to the knife. The other is using one's own hand as a cutting board. Both results are usually not pretty ľ and certainly inedible.
One frozen bagel manufacturer, Lender's, has taken the high road. Having anticipated potential lawsuits before its bagels even hit supermarket shelves, Lender's bagels are sold pre-sliced.
For most other bagel brands that come unsliced, several bagel lovers have tried to come up with innovative BRI prevention methods. The most popular bagel-cutting machine on the market was invented by Rick Ricard and is called the Bagel Biter, or simply the 'The Guillotine.' Over the last fifteen years, the company has sold about 80,000 cutters a year.
The device is a two-piece plastic container with a sharp, triangular-shaped blade attached inside one of the pieces for ultimate blade protection. It is similar to the construction of the French execution device, hence its name. The bagel is placed in the lower half and then the top is inserted. With a quick forceful downward push, the bagel is effectively halved, or guillotined, and the process is painless for everyone.
But many bagel-cutting newcomers still see an opportunity in this market. Nearly 2,000 people arrive at the ER with BRIs every year. Bagel-machine inventors claim this as evidence that the market for bagel cutters has not been saturated.
If you don't plan on investing in one of these cutters, there is a safety measures that you can take: Sharpen your knives! Dull knives cut more people than sharp knives do. So remember, cut away from yourself, keep your fingers clear and use a real cutting board - not your hand - when cutting that bagel.
In case you intend to get a bagel cutter, competitive devices like the Brooklyn Bagel Slicer, developed by a father and son team, have emerged. The cutter is a knife sheathed in a plastic moulding. The idea is that people tend to cut toward themselves no matter what they are told, so they have created knives that make this cutting method safe. Once the knife is about an inch from the hand, the plastic moulding prevents it from going any further.
Other contraptions exist, but do not currently make it possible to successfully halve a bagel without using a separate knife, which is ultimately the main reason for BRIs. Food critics are thus skeptical about many of these alleged bagel breakthroughs.