The can conundrum

You may have seen reports on a recent study that suggested a connection between BPA, a chemical found in many plastics, and childhood obesity. Concerns about the possible health effects of BPA, particularly on infants and children, have been around for years.

The concerns center around BPA's potential effect on development and metabolism. Many makers of plastic baby bottles have stopped using it, but it can still be found in many places, including the plastic lining in canned goods and soda cans. The government has deemed BPA safe in small levels but little is known about the possible cumulative effects of continual low-level exposure.

Like, many parents, I take the position “better safe than sorry.” Which is fine and good in principle but quite onerous in practice – just try packing a lunch with no plastic. But I do my best. One particularly insidious source of BPA I recently have concerned myself with is canning lids. I'm a pretty serious home canner and this time of year I'm going full bore to process the late summer bounty. The obesity study finally gave me impetuous to research alternatives to the ubiquitous Ball and Mason canning lids available in most local stores (the lining on the inside of the lids has BPA; heat, a necessity in canning, increases the amount of chemical released).

Unfortunately, the alternatives aren't ideal. The Italian company Quattro Stagioni offers lids without BPA and reportedly they fit U.S. jars. The German company Weck ( www.weckcanning.com ) offers jars with glass lids and rubber gaskets. U.S. company Tattler makes reusable lids that are plastic but contain no BPA (many reviewers reported that these fail to seal frequently). I ordered some of the Italian jars and lids (they are cool looking; cheapest through The Container Store website) and some of the Weck (retro cool, too; cheapest at www.crateandbarrel.com), so I can report back later on how they performed.

If you don't can but are thinking about it, I hope I haven't discouraged you by diving deep into the wood right off the bat. It's really not that complicated and can quickly become addictive in a eco-freak, survivalist, fierce mama bear providing for her cubs sort of way. And the tedium I find can be meditative when placed in contrast to our rush, rush, rush lifestyles. Soon you'll find yourself exalting, “Yes, I can can!”