Personally, I don't see this as a significant issue. In most cases the product isn't touching the lids because there is a headspace, and unlike commercial products, you know what you home-can is consistently stored upright so that the product has minimal contact with the lid, if at all.
I have hundreds and hundreds (thousands, actually) of canning jars. If I tried to replace them with Weck, I'd have to sell the house. I do have some Weck jars for "special," but they are very expensive, especially considering the investment I already have in jars. I just do not see this as a viable option for me.
[quote] In most cases the product isn't touching the lids because there is a headspace[/quote]
I haven't canned since the mid 1970's so don't remember too much about it, but wouldn't the contents of the jar come in contact with the inside of the lid during canning? I can see where there would be no contact once the contents have cooled.
Here's a link from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences
[quote]Donít microwave polycarbonate plastic food containers. Polycarbonate is strong and durable, but over time it may break down from over use at high temperatures.
Polycarbonate containers that contain BPA usually have a #7 on the bottom (http://www.recyclenow.org/r_plastics.html)
Reduce your use of canned foods.
When possible, opt for glass, porcelain or stainless steel containers, particularly for hot food or liquids.
Use baby bottles that are BPA free.[/quote]
I was reading a source that said contact with the lid is more of an issue with commercial goods because during processing cans are often on their sides or even upside down (as they are carried on the line, for instance). This is not generally true of home processed foods.
And, of course, with many commercially canned foods, exposure comes from the lining of the can as well as the lid, so by volume the exposure in home-canned foods is much less. Exposure can be minimized by canning in narrow-mouth quarts when possible.
I think we all have to assess risks (our lives are full of them) and degree of risk and make the choices that are appropriate for us.
Home-canned foods are still much healthier, lower in sugar and salt, as well as various artificial flavors, thickeners and preservatives compared to commercial foods, regardless of the BPA issue.
All I am saying is when you raise your own food and can fruits and vegetables in the 100's, the cost of Weck jars is prohibitive. It is also environmentally wasteful if one has already invested in hundreds or thousands of jars to replace everything with Weck.
A lot of people who can don't have the option of making this kind of choice. They simply don't have the resources. Unfortunately, until the BPA issue is resolved, the poor, who rely more heavily on cheaper commercial canned foods, will not have the luxury of making a decision one way or another. Fresh foods are prohibitively expensive.
I am going to be teaching myself to can this summer when my tomatoes are in, but I've put off buying any cans/lids because of this issue. (I've had multiple miscarriages and now breast cancer, which I know now is because of a very high-chemical-exposure lifestyle from childhood through my mid-30's, and I am trying to minimize my exposure to BPA and all other harmful chemicals, to the extend that I can.)
What kind of lids did people use in canning before BPA lids came on the market??
I will eventually be canning in the hundreds, so even if I have to pay top dollar for Weck lids, my health and my future children's health is far too important to me to skimp on this investment.
Carol, I agree with you that the poor really have it bad... junk food, McDonald's, quick cheap chemical-infested packaged goods are marketed heavily to them and they just don't know any better. My husband and I have befriended a family who lives in the projects, and I've tried to spark her interest in growing some vegetables in pots on her little porch area. She just isn't interested. Even with free seeds and pots and compost that I'm willing to give her, it's just easier for her to buy canned/packaged stuff.
I've told her and everybody I know how dangerous certain chemicals/additives are, and EVERYONE says something like "Oh wow, really? huh" but they don't do a thing about it. I guess they figure they can't do anything about it, or they don't really believe the government would allow all this poisonous stuff to be sold. Or, like my Dad, they say, "Well, I've lived xx years with all that and I'm fine"... nevermind he's had polyps removed from his colon multiple times, has high blood pressure, high cholesterol, is overweight and tired all the time.
Wow, sorry for the rant... exposure to chemicals has wreaked so much havoc on my life and given me so much heartbreak, I personally have to do everything I can to avoid exposure to known toxins... there's plenty I can't control, it's all the more important I control what I can.
We used bail jars (glass clamp-down lids), with rubber gaskets akin to the Italian, French or German canning jars (also Australian), but unlike today's glass-lidded jars, the molding was rather irregular and a strong seal could not always be assured.
Using those old bail jars is no longer recommended because the glass becomes brittle with the continued application of heat and there's a risk of shattering. The seal is also unreliable.
Other old jars used a porcelain-lined zinc lid with a rubber gasket. Again, no longer recommended.
There also used to be an old two-piece lid (I have some Presto jars like this.) with a metal ring and a glass flat. Again, a rubber gasket was used. I'm sorry those were discontinued. I liked those best. Weck jars are slow to can with because it's tedious to deal with the gaskets and the clamps. Until you get used to it, it's a slow process. If you're doing something like 68 jars of tuna, which I canned this summer, it can really add to the time.
I do appreciate your concerns. If I were in your situation and were just starting out accumulating a canning supply inventory, I might well make the choice you are. All I'm saying is that there are many home preservers who, for a variety of reasons, don't find that option financially possible.
I assume something will have to be done to resolve this issue soon, not just for home-canners but for the commercial food chain. While the U.S. might be slow to legislate against bisphenol A, the Canadians are moving on it now.
I grew up in a family that canned 500 quarts of peaches, 500 quarts of pears, 500 quarts of green beans, numerous pints of salmon, venison, innumerable jars of jams, jellies, applesauce. I think you see the issue regarding cost.
I will say, if you're buying Weck jars, check out buying directly from the US arm of the company. They ship out of Chicago, are nice to deal with, (I've spoken to them on the phone) and while their costs aren't wholesale, I think in most instances you'll find it's cheaper than buying from other suppliers.
As far as the poor are concerned, there's a phenomenon called "learned helplessness." Teachers deal with it all the time. I guess you could say "learned hopelessness." People cease to believe they have the power to influence the course of events. Changing that mindset can be incredibly challenging. But that's another issue . . .
BPA wasn't always in metal jar lids. I read somewhere I think it was in the early 70s they started using it so that the acidity of foods did not react with the metal and corrode it. The other issue with BPA is that it is released under heat. I think we all know how heat is involved in canning. I decided not to do anymore canning in jars with metal lids because of this. I too have many, many canning jars. I am using some for freezer storage, where they work much better than anything. I have broccoli I grew last year and froze still bright green and ice free in their jars. I also use them for bulk food storage.
The glass lidded jars are expensive, but I will use them for things I really want to can, like jellies. For the rest, I will freeze and dehydrate. I am planning on replacing my plastic dehydrator for one with steel shelves. Enough with the plastics already.
Carol said: "There also used to be an old two-piece lid (I have some Presto jars like this.) with a metal ring and a glass flat. Again, a rubber gasket was used. I'm sorry those were discontinued. I liked those best."
I saw one of those on ebay the other day and wasn't sure if it was real. They must have been kind of rare, no? Wish I could find more of those.
Since my last post, I have gotten the Weck jars and canned with them. I didn't have any problems. I can see they would be cost prohibitive if you were canning hundreds of jars. However, I'm not. I'm canning mostly jams, fruits, and pickles for just me and for gifts. They seal good, and you can tell they are sealed not only by the fact that the lid won't lift off but because the rubber tab points down when it's sealed.
I found people online who are using the old bailed jars to can pickles and jams, so I bought some Ball Ideal pints and quarts on ebay, and I also ordered some bailed Italian (Bormolli Fido) and French (Le Parfait) jars to try. The glass on all of these is thicker than the glass on a typical Ball jar today. In fact, I could see why people wanted to collect the old Ball Ideal jars. The glass is really thick and beautiful. I am also going to try the porcelain-lined zinc lidded Ball Perfect jars for fruits.
I know these things are not USDA approved, but Bisphenol-A IS USDA approved, so I am not so sure they are the last word on anything. I also found in Stocking Up III that the use of bailed and zinc-lidded jars is described and not condemned, at least for high-acid boiling water bathed stuff. I also did a lot of poking around on the CDC site about botulism, since all cases have to be reported to them. I could not find any cases of people getting botulism from jams or pickles. One case was from 1927 of pears that were rotten when canned. Those people got botulism and died. The mold was all over the pears when the jars were opened. The mold changed the pH and allowed the botulism to grow. Why these people would eat this I don't know. Maybe they thought canning the pears would somehow stop the mold. This was the only case I could find. It's pretty interesting--most of the people getting botulism in the past couple decades are native Alaskans deviating from traditional ways to ferment animal meat and fats, like by using glass or plastic containers instead of a hole in the ground. At any rate, I decided to use the glass-lidded jars for exactly what I planned to can: jams and pickles and perhaps some "spirited fruits" in a boiling-water bath.
I did find that the Weck jars I bought from Glashaus in Chicago had problematic lids that were defectively fired and a couple of jars that were defective with significant amounts of air bubbles in one and a hairline crack in the other. Apparently they had such a run on their jars due to a magazine article or two that their quality control kind of slipped. They did replace them without charge, and the replacement lids were fine. I ordered some Weck jars from Lehman's as well, and they were all fine, no defective anything.
I also looked into using the invert-and-seal method with a solid-lidded jar for small amounts of jam, as is done in the UK and commercially in the US. I found that those lids are Plastisol lined, and that means PVC, which is actually worse than BPA. However, I wonder if the invert-and-seal method could be used for jam or jelly in a small glass-lidded jar like the mini Weck or like the ones that Carol describes.
I haven't found the rubber gaskets to be a PIA. Maybe because I am not doing huge amounts. I did find the pretty Weck jars with the bulge took up a huge amount of room in the pot, so I went and got a different shape.
Because of all this, I have learned a lot more about canning, and I'm glad. I still have all my Ball jars and hope that Leifheit or someone will come out with a band lid that is not chock full of poison. Meanwhile, I am using these other guys.
paracelsus - I enjoyed reading your post. Thank you for taking the time to tell us about your experiences.
I decided to take a different route - I purchased a large freezer. Not as eco-friendly as I would have liked. Sooner or later, other canning jar lid manufacturers will come out with something we'll feel is safe to use, and affordable.
The odds of getting botulism from pears is miniscule. It would have to be rotten or windfall fruit. What happens as fruit decays is the pH goes up (i.e. it becomes less acid), which is why it's also a good idea to add citric acid or lemon juice to products like applesauce if you're salvaging apples from the ground or broken branches.
Otherwise most fruits (except low-acid varieties like figs) and full-sugar jams are not a safety issue. You could hypothetically not process at all and be OK safety-wise except for the risk of mold. The USDA recommendations for processing are principally a function of quality, not safety. An unprocessed fruit or jam simply will not have the same shelf-life and you risk wasting your hard work.
Pickles, it depends on the strength of the pickling solution. If I made an old-fashioned full-sugar 100% vinegar 14-day pickle, I wouldn't worry about it much. But a recipe with 50-50 vinegar and water is more problematic. The pH goes up over time on the shelf because cucumber juices leach into the pickling solution. Most people are not aware that there's a possibility that what starts out as high-acid on the shelf may not stay that way.
[That's also the reason, by the way, that it's not a good idea to re-use pickle juice to pickle a second batch of something-or-other.]
The USDA recommendations on bail jars were not pulled for safety reasons as much as for function (speaking again of high-acid product). In other words, the seal on those old jars is not as reliable due to imprecise machining of the glass edge. Barring manufacturing error as Paracelsus mentioned, Wecks do not have this issue. I have Weck jars and have used them. But for me they're principally for "boutique" canning. Not just for expense but because I can't seal them as quickly as a jar with a flat and a ring. I haven't used them enough to build up a good speed with large batches.
I have some jars with zinc lids, though mainly I and my husband use those for storage. He likes them for glass frit. I don't personally care for them for canning. You still have the gasket to fiddle with.
That's good to know about the pickle solution, carolinorygun. I have been making a lot of pickle recipes using that basic 50/50 ratio. I will try using wine for the water, since after asking about it, I found that it is high acid, and see if it affects the taste. I usually use wine vinegar anyhow--and I have been eating those pickles pretty quick! But I hope to have a big cuke harvest, so this is good to know.
Since my last post in this thread, I have been using glass Presto lids and rubber gaskets that I bought on ebay. I have more seal failures than I have had using regular metal lids, but it is not a problem because the tradeoff is not having to worry about any chems leaching into the food. Also, they are infinitely reusable and not very expensive, esp. compared with the European glass-lidded jars by Weck, Le Parfait, and Bormiolli. That said, I have really gotten to like the Le Parfait and Bormiolli jars better than the Wecks or the Presto lids on Ball jars. They seal a lot better than anything and the rubber ring is quite thick and doesn't get deformed with heat like some of the Weck rings have gotten for me. The only problem is the price. But I have just been buying them a case at a time and considering them lifetime investments, because they won't wear out. The glass, esp of the Le Parfait and Bormiolli, is much thicker than Ball.
Re the reusable plastic lids, I think these are a situation of out of the frying pan and into the fire. I asked a friend who works in recycling about this plastic, and she could not recommend it for food, even though it is approved (but so is BPA). Even the Wikipedia article about this plastic, which appears to have been written by a corporate spokesperson, says it has a problem with degrading in the presence of chlorine at the level it is found in ordinary drinking water. It pointed out the class action suit homeowners raised about this plastic being used in water pipes in new houses. Maybe folks remember that--it became porous and leaked all over the inside of people's walls. This seems like it would be a problem for a "lifetime" canning implement. The other problem with this plastic is that it is made from formaldehyde, a carcinogen, so the manufacture of these lids means more formaldehyde in the environment.
I have gotten to the point where I no longer want any plastics touching my food or water, if I can help it. I am having to put myself out some to use the glass lids in whatever form, but for me, it is worth it not to have to have any concern about chems in the food I can. I know it's a real fine line to take all the different factors into consideration, and there are many.
[quote] I have gotten to the point where I no longer want any plastics touching my food or water, if I can help it.[/quote]
Where ever possible, I've been eliminating plastic food containers, too. I've noticed an increase in the availability of glass storage containers. I purchased two boxes of assorted sized glass containers from Costco recently for storing home-grown tomatoes in the freezer.
I certainly never reheat food in anything plastic.
Right now I'm on the horns of a dilemma! I'm going on vacation at some point, and want to take my stainless steel water bottle with me (I even paid extra for a stainless steel cap) - but I've read that these bottles are sometimes confiscated at airports!
The thought of having to drink from plastic bottles disturbs me.
I wrote to the TSA, but they said the person who checks you through at the airport has the last say on what one can and cannot take (sigh)
re Tattler lids, -- can anyone easily tell if the jar is safely sealed?, -- does the lid look sealed like regular lids, by observing the concave lid, ??-- I have children who must be able to determine if the jar is safe to eat, when they open it, -- [listening for the air to suck in to the jar is not an option for hearing impaired]] any one know??
I have not done any canning myself as of yet but want to start this summer. I have already started making the switch to all BPA free in my household and had no idea it would be in canning lids. As stated, it is the heat that sets it off. I will still use some of my plastic containers for the fridge if I feel I need to but never in the microwave now.
I think the Tattle sounds great and so glad to see it now rather than later. As far as the cost, well it is a lot less than the monetary cost of illness that is cause in part by toxins and carcinagins with everything we ingest and take in transdermally these days. It is certainly worth the cost of feeling well rather than in bad health such as MrsJohnnyG has pointed out. We certainly can't get away from all toxins but I am making the switch anywhere I can at this point.