Unitasker Wednesday: Karate Lettuce Chopper

All Unitasker Wednesday posts are jokes — we don’t want you to buy these items, we want you to laugh at their ridiculousness. Enjoy!

This is one of the more amusing unitaskers we’ve featured, and I’d like to thank reader Rosanna for sending it to us. I can’t stop smiling when I see this week’s selection, and my guess is you’ll have a similar positive response when you cast your gaze upon the Gama-Go Karate Lettuce Chopper, too:


Growing up, my mom had a lettuce knife in her utensil drawer that I can’t ever remember using on lettuce. I remember chasing my brother around the house with it, but I’m not really sure that was its intended purpose when she bought it. I took to Google to learn why someone might want a lettuce knife, because I sincerely had no idea why lettuce might need knifing or, in this case, Karate chopping (I just use my hands when breaking up lettuce, I didn’t know this wasn’t normal). Turns out, promoters of using a plastic knife on lettuce say it keeps lettuce from browning if you plan to store the lettuce for more than a week in its chopped form. Interesting …

So, I turned to Cook’s Illustrated (my go-to source for all things cooking related) to find out the answers to the questions I didn’t have until just a few seconds ago: “Does a serrated plastic knife prevent lettuce from browning? Is it worth $11, or is it a scam?”

Cook’s Illustrated responded, don’t buy one:

The plastic lettuce knife might stave off browning slightly longer than metal knives, but it’s not worth the money or the extra drawer space. To prolong the life of lettuce by a day or two, stick to tearing by hand. Tearing allows leaves to break along their natural fault lines, rupturing fewer cells and reducing premature browning.

Although the Gama-Go Karate Lettuce Chopper is incredibly entertaining, I’ll keep using the hands at the ends of my arms to cut up lettuce in our house and save the ridiculous amount of drawer space this device would occupy for something more useful. It does make me smile, though …

37 Comments for “Unitasker Wednesday: Karate Lettuce Chopper”

  1. posted by Alexandra on

    Haha, I saw an ad for this recently on Facebook, and my immediate first thought was, “this has to eventually be an unclutterer unitasker post.” Glad to see I was correct!

  2. posted by Patty Gardner on

    I actually have the plastic lettuce knife – but not the one in your picture! – and I can testify that it doesn’t make much of a difference. Like you said in the article, it might make a tiny difference but it’s just as easy to tear the lettuce by hand.

    That being said, I do use it when I’m making lettuce shreds for tacos/burritoes. I already have the knife, so what the heck.

    Oh, and one more thing, I do remember hearing Alton Brown say on his show, Good Eats, that the knife doesn’t work.

  3. posted by JessA on

    I bought a similar plastic knife at the dollar store years ago and I will say it was handy when I had little ones in the house. I had them help me make dinner and they could use the plastic knife for chopping the lettuce, slicing the celery, mangling the tomatoes and other softer chopping jobs. They felt like a big kid with a knife like mom’s and I didn’t have to worry about them cutting themselves.

  4. posted by Michele Hays @QuipsTravails on

    I agree with JessA. Though this particular model would have the exact opposite of the desired effect, lettuce knives do serve one useful function: they are a great tool for safely teaching kids knife skills.

    You can actually cut tomatoes and other soft fruit with a serrated lettuce knife reasonably well, especially if you are using a correct slicing knife stroke (draw the knife across the food with very little downward pressure.)

    Other than that, I agree. Besides, if you’re trying to teach your kids knife skills, the LAST think you want them to learn is that knives are karate-chop toys!

  5. posted by Emma on

    Just to agree with the previous posters, lettuce knives are terrific for kids. We first encountered them at a “kids cook” table at a farmers market in Portland, OR. My four year old was able to chop up all the ingredients for a nice little bowl of salsa. We now have our own and use it often. In the fall, we got many pounds of apples ready for applesauce together – I would cut each apple in half, and place it cut-side down on the cutting board, and she could easily cut it in half again with the lettuce knife. Also agree, the karate-chop design is pretty silly.

  6. posted by writing all the time on

    Since the topic is lettuce, (sort of)here’s my latest discovery. Rinse your head of romaine, pull it apart with your hands, then stand it the leave up right in you clean dish drainer.

    Then – aha, here’s the discovery! – store the leaves upright in a tall container in the fridge. Voila! The lettuce stays fresh and useable much longer than it did when I threw it into the veggie bin.

    You all may know this already, but I’m proud;) that I figured it out by myself.

  7. posted by Bree on

    I also have two plastic knives – one small one from that Unitasker’s Catalog, Miles Kimball, and a larger orange one I bought on clearance at a cooking store.

    I use them all the time, not just for lettuce. They are my go-to knife for sending in bake goods for school and work (easy to transport without cutting yourself), serving cake or pie at any party that has kids (which is most of them), and having my 5 year old help in the kitchen.

    I do use them to chop lettuce when I bringing a salad to work or a party. If a salad is going to sit for several hours, the plastic knife does appear to make a difference.

  8. posted by hyllas on

    We have a normal lettuce knife for our kids (not a karate chop one, I agree that’s a bad message). They can use it to cut fruit and vegetables at home, and we bring it to school parties for bread and bagels. No real knives are allowed at school, of course. But the kids like being able to cut their own food. They’ve been able to use the lettuce knife since age 2.

    Ultimately we got two lettuce knives because they kept fighting over whose turn it was to chop; fortunately they’re cheap.

  9. posted by Annalisa on

    I actually have found a great use for my lettuce knife that is completely unrelated to lettuce. I can’t remember where I read the suggestion, but awhile back I read somewhere that you can use them to slice bread/cake/and so forth in metal pans so you don’t scratch them as you would with a metal knife. It has worked exceedingly well on my expensive Wilton pans! It is also nice when I take baked goods to the office so that I can just bring the lettuce knife with me and not worry about people damaging my pans like has happened in the past. But yes, when it comes to lettuce, I do tear rather than cut ;).

  10. posted by Gabe on

    Home baked goods in school! Those were the good ‘ole days.
    Around here, you can’t bring home baked to school any longer… only prepackaged food products. (Food allergen hysteria runs rampant here)
    Heaven forbid little Tommy with the peanut allery has to exert his brainpower/willpower to not eat the peanut butter bars little Susie brought to school.

    Back on topic – Like Erin, I just use my hands for lettuce, unless shredding for tacos.
    We actually just downsized our kitchen knife collection from two knife blocks on the counter top, to a single in-drawer knife storage block, reducing clutter on the counter, and getting rid of near a dozen duplicate or unused knives.

  11. posted by Jodi on

    Far from defending any unitasker, there is a reason to have a knife for lettuce…chopping it! It would take forever to tear lettuce bu hand into the tiny shreds I use in many of my recipes. If your recipe can handle bigger hunks of lettuce then tearing by hand might work great, but when you need shreded lettuce hands are the wrong tool for the job.

  12. posted by Karyn on

    The only time I’ve ever seen lettuce cut instead of shredded is with heads of iceberg lettuce. Since iceberg lettuce is, to me, bland and gross, I’ve never even had to learn that such a thing as lettuce knives exist, let alone consider purchasing one. 😀 I do like the idea of the safer plastic knives for teaching children beginning kitchen skills! As for the karate chop, I fear that would eventually get used on someone’s sibling in a fight.

  13. posted by Erin Doland on

    @Gabe — Your comment is full of misinformation. People who are allergic to peanuts aren’t just allergic to the food when they eat it, they are allergic to microscopic peanut dust that can get on surfaces (such as when your kid opens a container and sets down the lid), your kid’s hands (are you sure he/she is washing them after touching a food and before touching any other surface or person?), or even in the air (just being able to breathe peanut dust in the air can cause a deathly reaction). There is no such thing as a mild peanut allergy. Every person allergic to peanuts can die from ANY exposure to peanuts or peanut dust. The individual may not have a deathly reaction every time, but a deathly reaction IS possible every time. Thinking that only eating peanuts is what causes an allergic reaction is why there are so many accidental deaths every year — if microscopic peanut dust is on your hands and you touch a child’s arm, you could kill the kid. Do your child’s classmates a favor and read up a little on the allergy so you and your child don’t accidentally kill one of his/her friends. It’s not about the child not having the brainpower or willpower to stay away from peanuts, it’s about people like you who don’t understand the allergy and accidentally intorduce peanut dust into an environment.

    When I was teaching, we had two kids rushed to the hospital because classmates ate peanut butter sandwiches at lunch and then went to their next classes without washing their hands. They touched the desks. The following periods, the allergic kids came in, touched the desk when doing their work, and had allergic reactions. If you ever want to be terrified, cast your eyes on a sixth grader in anaphylactic shock.

  14. posted by ninakk on

    Haha, I’m dense enough to cut the iceberg with a normal knife, since I’m too lazy to do it by hand unless I have guests. Love the square finger tips of that karate hand, though.

  15. posted by Kai on

    Is it really necessary to be so extreme? EVERY person who is allergic is allergic to ANY amount and ALWAYS might die?

    Yes, many kids have a truly deathly peanut allergy and can’t handle it in the air. but there are plenty of people who need a much higher amount of contact before they start showing any problematic symptoms.
    I have one friend who can go anaphylactic if he eats peanuts, but has no problems at all with peanuts chopped on his counter, or his tent-mate eating peanuts in his GORP or any such problems. Until he eats a peanut, he’s just fine.

    I have no problem with the extreme measures when it is necessary for the kids with extreme sensitivity, but that *isn’t* everyone, and declaring it so just sounds silly.

  16. posted by priest's wife on

    about peanut allergy: I’ve heard of schools that have a ‘peanut-free’ class if there are maybe 4 5th grades- one class will have students who agree to be peanut free, washing hands, etc.

    As for me, if my child was deathly allergic to something, I would homeschool for health and safety reasons. (I do homeschool, but for other reasons)- I understand that most parents wouldn’t feel up to homeschooling, but for some with extreme sensitivity, the risks of school are just too great

  17. posted by Erin Doland on

    @Kai — Yes. The three proteins in peanuts that people can be allergic to can cause anaphylactic shock upon any contact, even breathing. Just because a person hasn’t had anaphylactic shock in the past, doesn’t mean it won’t happen at some point in the future. In fact, that is how many people end up dying from the allergy because in the past they have only had issues if they have eaten a peanut, but then have a reaction upon dermatitis contact and are unprepared. Plus, if a person has anaphylactic shock from eating a peanut, it increases the chances they will have the same severe reaction from any future form of contact. Your friend is very lucky, but I would highly recommend he/she read the current research from the Journal of New Enland Medicine and the Journal of Allergies. A lot has changed in understanding the allergy in just the past 12 months.

    I didn’t mean to overtake the comments to this fun post with such a deep topic, but after watching two kids be put into ambulances while fighting for their lives … well, I just don’t see how anyone would be cavalier about the topic. People don’t need peanut butter to live, and it is so simple to avoid including it in a kid’s lunch.

  18. posted by ninakk on

    Those of you who are cavalier about allergies, have you ever pondered why so many stay alive these days instead of just die like flies? It’s something called knowledge.

  19. posted by Amanda on

    I’m a teacher and was flat out told by the county nurse that there is, indeed a mild peanut allergy. I have two students in my class this year with mild allergies. They can be around peanuts, they just can’t eat them.

    I was also told, and I quote, “There’s no such thing is a nut-free school. It’s simply impossible.” She went on to say you can’t force the UPS guy to not eat peanuts, and you never know when a new family is going to walk in the door to register their kids, and that family could have just had peanut butter crackers in the car.

    It might make people feel better to say it’s a nut-free school/class/table, but don’t depend on it.

  20. posted by Amanda on

    I wish we could edit comments. I meant to expand the first paragraph. She said there are mild reactions, that reactions can change over time, but that in her experience (working with one of the largest school systems in the nation, a system larger than that of several STATES), most of the kids with mild reactions continue to have mild reactions.

  21. posted by Erin Doland on

    @Amanda — There are peanut intolerances that behave similarly to peanut allergies that won’t ever cause anaphylaxis, and this may be what your county nurse is referring to as a “mild” peanut allergy. (One of the current findings is that an allergy to birch pollen can be triggered by peanuts because of similar chemical compounds, and the birch pollen allergy also shows a false positive result on a RAST and CAP-RAST peanut allergy test.) With a peanut intolerance, the person isn’t allergic to any or all of the three proteins in the peanuts, but something else about the peanut isn’t tolerated by the person’s digestive system (again, the birch pollen example). A person who is actually allergic to peanuts will always be at risk for anaphylactic shock.

  22. posted by Pam on

    I can completely see the shape of this knife encouraging my three kids to weaponize the thing, karate chopping each other and everything in sight. ; )

  23. posted by Susan DR on

    To get back to the karate chopper … My son’s karate instructors are getting married in a few weeks (to each other), and this would make a hilarious gift. I’ve got to decide if I want to waste $11, but just maybe.

    As for the peanut allergy discussion… My son has a peanut allergy and it is something we have to deal with 24/7. Ignorance is the hardest part of this allergy, and until people realize just how serious a reaction can be I will never relax. Our school is not peanut free – parents of the allergic kids were asked if we wanted that and my feeling is that the world in not peanut free, a school would never be guaranteed to be peanut free and we are safer if we expect peanuts to be there and deal with avoiding them. Our school does an excellent job of teaching tolerance and acceptance, and it is the non-allergic kids that go overboard to protect their friends. It seems to be the parents that have a problem understanding and accepting that if they send a peanut butter sandwich that their child will not be allowed to sit next to their friend with an allergy. The kids are ok with that and no one is ostracized or made to sit alone, but their parents complain that they can’t sit next to their best friend. Well, then don’t bring a pb&j sandwich!

    I look forward to the day when people will be more understanding and realize how terrifying it is to send your child off knowing that an innocent action like touching a doorknob could cause a reaction or death. And even as a toddler my son was ok with being told that something may not be safe – no tantrums or fussing. I hope that people, especially some of the people who have commented above, take the time to learn and understand this allergy and realize that it is extremely serious, potentially fatal, and not something to take lightly.

  24. posted by Debbie on

    I had heard many years ago that using a plastic knife would keep lettuce from turning brown so quickly, so I grabbed a plastic picnic knife, put it in the drawer and wala!~the lettuce knife. If it breaks or dulls, no problem, grab another. Many times these can be found for FREE in your carryout order utensil pack!!

  25. posted by JustGail on

    Interesting comments on the peanuts. When DS was in grade school, for a couple of years, a notice got sent home about classmates’ peanut allergies (no home-made treats). I don’t know if kids have moved away, or if it’s assumed that by the time they are in high school, those with the allergy know how to deal with it, but nothing has been sent home for 3-4 years now.

    Regarding the knife – chop a weeks worth of lettuce at once? I tear lettuce on a as-needed basis. The only time I do more than that meal,s lettuce is if I’m making a taco or 7-layer salad, which usually lasts for 2-3 days. I only use a knife if making shredded lettuce for tacos.

  26. posted by Lesley on

    Mass hysteria is an ugly thing.


    I applaud the comments of priest’s wife above. IF, and that’s a BIG “if,” your kid is truly at risk of going into shock from being near a peanut, you should homeschool. It’s ridiculous to regulate everyone else around you.

    But as the article I linked to above states, many nut allergies are self-induced by freaky parents who refuse to let their little ones have nuts at an early age. And many, many more people are deathly allergic to shellfish than nuts. And only from EATING the shellfish, not just being in their vicinity.

    Just as likely you die from getting hit by lightning.

    And yes, I know what anaphylaxis looks like. I have been in anaphylaxis twice – once for sulfa drugs, once for poison ivy. Guess what? I still go camping. I still hike. I carry an epi-pen, and I don’t refuse to let my scout go camping because he might carry the dust home. Much less insist that his entire den not go camping.

  27. posted by Erin Doland on

    @Lesley — How an innocent child developed an allergy is irrelevant. The kids have the allergies. Those allergies are not going away, irrespective of how the child developed it. (And, recent research supports peanut allergies are a result of mothers using asthma drugs, having asthma, or having breathing treatments during respiratory illness like pneumonia and the croup. But, like I said, it doesn’t matter. The kid has the allergy.)

    Also, your statement that kids with peanut allergies should be forced to be home schooled would violate federal law per the Americans with Disabilities Act. A public school cannot deny a child admission because of a physical disability, specifically a child cannot “be excluded from participation in or be denied the benefits of the services, program, or activities of a public entity, or be subjected to discrimination by any such entity.” I would hope in this day we as a society had given up the belief that people who are different should be locked in homes and denied public services.

  28. posted by Kai on

    Oh, my friend has had anaphylactic reactions – every time he has eaten a peanut. But not without. It seems maybe the research is mixed on this one. I’m not opposed to taking serious measures to protect children that are genuinely deathly allergic – I just disagree with taking the measures when it hasn’t actually proved necessary.
    In fact, the popularity of mis-diagnosing peanut allergies leads to a lot of kids who might have a slight sensitivity or an intolerance being declared deathly allergic, and having peanuts banished from the life of anyone who knows them. Great on Susan DR for finding that level of reasonable accommodations.

    How allergies develop is useful to know for research, but definitely not relevant to how we work with those who have them now.

  29. posted by Kai on

    It’s not that we think people who are different should be locked up. And that level of hysteria accusation really doesn’t help a civil discussion. The point intended was that while some concessions we might make for the disable help them and hurt no-one (other than in the wallet), such as ramps, lower water fountains, wide toilet stalls, and such, other concessions come at the expense of other students. And when a person with a disability has a requirement that directly takes away from the lives of the other students, the relative values need to be weighed. Peanut allergies, for example, require *other* students to not be allowed to eat peanuts. That is somewhat tyrannical, and it’s not unreasonable to say that people may eat what they want, and if you can’t be around something, you have to make the concession instead of everyone else. Or, as mentioned above, you find a nice middle ground where the safety of the afflicted child can be maintained without too much impact on others.
    There are children with porphyria, who cannot have contact with sun. To accommodate them in a regular classroom would be nice, but one might reasonably argue that having to black out all the windows puts too much hardship on the rest of the students.
    Some children have completely destroyed immune systems, but to require every other student in their class to wear a face mask all the time, and stay home with a mild cold, could reasonably be considered too imposing ‘accommodation’.
    Weighing the level of difficulty that must be imposed on a group in order to not exclude an individual is not the same as just locking all the ‘different’ in a bedroom.

  30. posted by Erin Doland on

    @Kai — This example might initially appear to be a little extreme, but see me through it:

    A parent has the opportunity to put a gun in his kid’s backpack every day when he sends his kid off to school. The vast majority of parents, even though putting a gun in the backpack is something they _can_ do, they choose not to. They choose to follow federal law and not send a potentially lethal weapon to school with their kid. The gun could accidentally be used by their kid to kill another student, and everyone would like to avoid that scenario.

    Now, let’s use the word peanut …

    A parent has the opportunity to put a peanut butter sandwich in his kid’s backpack every day when he sends his kid off to school. The vast majority of parents, even though packing a peanut butter sandwich in their kid’s backpack is something they _can_ do, they choose not to do it. They choose to fellow federal law and not send a potentially lethal sandwich to school with their kid. The sandwich could accidentally touch a surface or their kid could forget to wash his hands, and their kid could kill another student, and everyone would like to avoid that scenario.

    If a person can restrain themselves from putting a potentially lethal weapon in their kid’s backpack in one scenario, how is it so difficult to avoid it in the second scenario? In my opinion, inaction is not difficult. It’s incredibly easy _not_ to do something. Parents do it every day when they don’t send other potentially lethal weapons to school with their kids. All a peanut-allergy accommodation requires of another parent is to avoid putting a weapon in their kid’s backpack.

  31. posted by Kai on

    Except that that gun is highly enjoyable for the child to use, completely harmless to 97% of the students, and with careful use at school, can remain harmless to *all* the students (such as the careful use at Susan’s school).

    And if the parents took your simple tip for inaction, their child would go hungry. I’m not saying it’s a horribly arduous action, but they are required to take the action of finding a substitute to put in the backpack instead.

    As as I have said before, when children really are deathly allergic, I’m not completely opposed to extreme action. I’m opposed to the knee-jerk ‘no peanuts in schools’, and I am opposed to automatically expecting others to accommodate your problems.
    When your child grows up, will you expect his workplaces to ban peanuts? Do you expect him to step onto a city bus or an airplane and announce that this is now a hostage situation, and anyone who may have come into contact with a peanut recently must leave so he can get on? Or will you expect him to ask for reasonable accommodations, and make choices of his own to lower the risk (just like everyone else with an atypical risk factor does)? We’re just advocating for that kind of approach from the beginning, rather than declaring peanuts to be handguns.

    My point in my last post was not to suggest that any child with an allergy must be homeschooled, or any other extreme action to either end.

    Rather, I just want to point out that it’s a pretty reasonable expectation to *have the discussion* on how much accommodation a child needs, how much of that will be put onto others, and how much hardship it will put on others to make those accommodations.
    In many cases of disability, the hardship on others is pretty low, and we accommodate it just fine. Some cases are more extreme, and it may be considered too difficult to accommodate. The arguments on the ease of accommodating peanut allergics are relevant to that discussion, but my point was that we can and should have that discussion, rather than just announcing that if everyone doesn’t accommodate any disability, they’re just an evil person who wants to lock the ‘different’ in their homes.

  32. posted by Erin Doland on

    @Kai — I agree that a dialog is important, and so is proper testing so parents know exactly if their kid is allergic to one or more of the three proteins in peanuts. But if a kid is allergic to peanuts in a class, I don’t think there should be any hesitation on the part of her classmates’ parents to be responsible and not send peanuts to school with their kids. It’s hardly an inconvenience to send a kid to school with grilled cheese or avocado and tomato or ham or a cheese quesadilla instead of a potentially lethal weapon.

  33. posted by Kai on

    Why is it necessary for every other parent to ‘be responsible’ and send other foods. Why isn’t it necessary for an afflicted student to eat in a particular lunch room, peanut-eating students to eat in a particular other lunch room, and for all students to be supervised washing their hands afterwards?
    It works for Susan’s school.

    I can tell you that as a child, it would have been very difficult for my parents to get me to eat a grilled cheese sandwich at school, or ham every day. Impossible to get me to eat something with a tomato in it.
    You still seem to come at this from the “my child has a problem, and everyone else must change around their lives to accommodate him. It’s not that hard for all of you to to change your habits.” rather than looking at the various possibilities.
    I continue to wonder what you expect the world to drop for him when he’s not in grade school anymore.

  34. posted by Kai on

    Another thought for the commenting world at large…
    When it comes to birthday parties, and such, where does the onus lie on food allergies/intolerances?
    Obviously it’s quite easy to avoid major allergens like nuts and shellfish in a lunch and cake birthday meal, so that would seem pretty self-explanatory.
    But what about the intolerances, and the less-common allergies?
    If little Jimmy is having a party, and his friend Suzy is allergic to milk, and his friend Tommy is gluten-intolerant, and his friend Sally is a vegetarian, who is responsible for resolving potential conflicts with the menu?

  35. posted by thf on

    Since we’re still talking about nut allergies, I should say I come from the UK, where the attitudes to allergies is very similar to the US, with nutfree schools and whatnot.

    However I spent last year working in German Grundschule (ages 6-10ish) and I was amazed at the difference over there. They put huge emphasis on the personal responsibility of the children and they are like tiny little adults. We were sending a Christmas parcel to a UK school and they wanted to send something with nuts in it and I had to tell them we couldn’t because the school in the UK was nutfree. The teachers were horrified at this idea, because they believe that children have to be taught from the beginning how to deal with their allergies, otherwise they will be in for a shock when they go to high school or enter the workplace or whatever where they wouldn’t be protected. It seemed to work incredibly well, with all the kids being responsible for themselves and respectful to others.

    Similarly there was a 6 year old diabetic girl who took her own blood readings every day of her own accord, before she could even write them down – she would come with a pencil and pad and ask us to record them until she was able to do so herself.

    I was really amazed and impressed by this, and also it meant we got to have amazing homemade cakes for every child’s birthday. Even the diabetic girl was given a piece and she would wrap it up and take it home to eat with her parents with a meal and she was just trusted not to say, eat it on the way home and go into diabetic shock. The children who had nut allergies would politely ask if there were nuts in the cake and that was that. However the culture over there is just entirely different – there is none of the paedophile fear/don’t touch the children/health and safety problems we have in Britain – children were trusted to ride public transport to school alone from the age of 6 or less and there was an insane adventure playground with a rock climbing wall and everything in the playground.

  36. posted by Erin Doland on

    @Kai — I think we’re just going to have to disagree on this one. If we were having a discussion in person, my guess is we would be able to find common ground. However, I doubt that will happen in a typed discussion.

  37. posted by Crystal on

    I really wanted to say that I enjoyed the discussion in this comment section. Even though there were different views on the subject of peanut allergies each person stated what they thought without being rude or condescending. The discussion was very interesting, and I could see each persons point of view on the subject. A+ to everyone!

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