I've never seen a full side-by-side comparison of Jarden Metal Lids and Tattler Reusable Canning lids, so I thought I'd do a little digging and see what I could find. I know a lot of folks swear by one or the other, or use both, depending on what they're canning (for instance, they may not use Tattlers on jars they plan to give as gifts).
Concerns about Tattler Reusable Canning Lids
After reading rave reviews online about Tattler reusable canning lids, I took the plunge and ordered some with friends. My results were not as good as I had hoped. I noticed a significantly higher failure rate than standard canning lids, both during and after processing. The lids are also easily damaged if they are improperly removed from the jar (say by an eager little boy who is hungry for peaches).
The Natural Canning Resource Book details further concerns:
“Tattler lids are composed of polyoxymethlylen copolymer, an acetal copolymer. Copolymers are linked plastics which contain two or more ingredients. … (The author's father, a chemist) noted that the copolymer is made from a trimer of formaldehyde called trioxane and other compound variations. Formaldehyde is a highly-toxic substance long known to be carcinogenic. Some of the secondary additives are also potentially dangerous to human health and the environment.”
The Home Canning Resource Book also states that, “The National Center for Home Food Preservation has also documented higher levels of seal failure rates on Tattler lids than Jarden two piece lids.” If you have further questions, I suggest you contact the author directly at her website.
The book continues to give detailed evidence of uncombined formaldehyde in the lids. **Note – there has been some discussion about this on online forums since this post went live, noting that the temperatures involved in canning are not high enough to release the formaldehyde from its bonds in the copolymer. This is accurate.
The Tattler lids should not be used with alcohol, strong acids, chlorine or strong sunlight, which will break down the plastic of the lids. I won't be ordering more of these lids.
Comparison of Jarden Metal Lids and Tattler Reusable Canning Lids
Most Tattler reviews I've seen give little or no technical or background information, and the metal lids have been around so long no one “reviews” them anymore, although there has been a lot of buzz in recent years about their BPA content. I sent email questionnaires to both Jarden and Tattler. Jarden representative Judy L. Harrold, Manager, Consumer Affairs, responded quickly, and we also arranged a phone interview. Tattler declined to comment, so I pieced together information from their website and other online sources (as noted). Here are the results. My questions are in bold, responses in plain text.
Jarden Metal Lids
(Ball and Kerr brands, as well as others worldwide)
Website: Jarden Home Brands
MSDS (Materials Data Safety Sheet) on all lid materials
MSDS is not required by regulatory authorities for this product. Jarden Home Brands manufacturers home canning lids using tin coated steel with an epoxy coating (to prevent corrosion) and plastisol sealant.
How long have the lids been manufactured? How long has your company been in business? Where are your lids manufactured?
Jars and lids have been manufactured under the Ball brand name since 1885. Today, the closures are manufactured by Jarden Home Brands marketer of Ball branded products. The two-piece caps using plastisol compound were introduced in the 1960’s and replaced two-piece caps having a latex sealing compound. (View the Jarden Timeline.) We’re very proud to say that all of our lids and bands are produced in our plant in Muncie, IN.
Have there been any time periods where lid production did not take place or was greatly reduced? (I’ve heard there was a metal lid shortage in the 70’s.)
The company always produced home canning lids to accompany the jars and as replacements parts. During the 1970’s there was an increased demand for home canning lids that caused the company (then Ball Corporation) to add production shifts. The consumer demand was so high during this period that many startup companies produced home canning lids. The majority (if not all) of those businesses are no longer in operation.
How much BPA is in the lids? How does this compare to other sources of BPA?
Judy and I discussed this over the phone. She told me that a 150 pound adult would need to consume 2400-4300 jars of home canned food each day to reach the maximum daily safety limit for BPA exposure. No specific amount was given.
Will you be introducing a BPA-free lid?
Again, we discussed this over the phone. While Jarden is working on BPA free alternatives, they want to be absolutely certain that any changes made result in a product that works as well as current products, and does not introduce new concerns. Further discussion of BPA below.
UPDATE November 2013: Jarden Lids are now BPA free.
How many lids have you sold?
It’s difficult to determine the number of lids sold over the years, but we produce about 3 million lids per day during peak production months.
What safety testing has been done on the lids?
In-house scientists conduct ongoing quality and performance tests on bands and lids. They audit the integrity of in-coming raw materials, monitor production runs against design specifications, and they conduct pack tests on the closures for shelf-life tests.
Ball brand and Kerr brand closures have been used by the USDA and affiliated universities when conducting heat-penetration tests in the development of safe home canning guidelines. Heat penetration tests were conducted by Jarden Home Brands working with university and independent authorities for the development of safe home canning recipes. Our closures stand up to this stringent testing protocol.
What support services do you offer to home canners?
Jarden Home Brands offers direct to consumer support services via 800#, email, Facebook, and written correspondence. We have an informative website – www.freshpreserving.com – with step-by-step videos, FAQs, and recipes to help the home canner experience successful results with each canning project. Our Consumer Affairs staff has successfully completed the Better Process control School, works closely with our in-house scientists, and has nearly 50 years experience behind them.
Any other information on the lids or the company that you feel is important for consumers to know.
Jarden Home Brands understands that home canned food safety goes hand-in-hand with quality jars, lids and bands. That’s why we continue to build on more than one-hundred years of experience through research, testing, and education.
More information on BPA in Canning Lids and Other Sources of BPA
In the book Slow Death by Rubber Duck, they mention that 93% of Americans tested showed measurable amounts of BPA (bisphenol A) in their blood samples. They cited numerous studies that linked BPA exposure to negative health effects, primarily as an endocrine disruptor. One of the authors did extreme things (drinking coffee microwaved in a plastic baby bottle) to boost the BPA level in his blood. He succeeded. It dropped back down after the test, but didn't go to zero.
It turns out that there is BPA in many, many everyday products – CDs and DVDs, water bottles, drinking glasses, kitchen appliance and utensils, eyeglass lenses, bottled water carboys, helmet visors, plastic toys, computers and other electronics, dental coatings, wire coatings, epoxy coatings, can lining (which most of us have heard of), receipts, recycled paper – including pizza boxes – basically, much of what we are in contact with daily in the modern world.
Frankly, I don't know how bad BPA really is. I do know that scaremongering sells. The EPA has come out saying risk from BPA is minimal to non-existent, but sometimes the EPA is less than reliable. The EU tends to be a lot more uptight about such things, and even they're saying it's not a problem. I'll skip microwaving my coffee (or anything else) in plastic (I don't use the microwave much anyway), but for the moment, I'm not completely freaked out about it.
BPA related links
Here are some more BPA related links
Tattler Reusable Canning Lids
As I mentioned above, I sent the same survey to Tattler, and they declined to respond, so the following is information I've assembled from their site and other online sources.
When were Tattler Lids first created?
Tattler Reusable Canning lids were invented by Loren Stieg, a tool and die maker, in 1976 during a shortage of metal canning lids.
The Daily Sentinel shares the story:
The lids, designed for water-bath or pressure canning, are made of an injection-molded, food-grade plastic and fitted to a nitrile rubber gasket.
The name “Tattler” came about because Loren Stieg wanted them to make a sound when they sealed.
“They were going to make a noise and ‘tattle’ on themselves when they sealed,” Stieg said. “It just didn’t work that way and the design changed, but the name stayed.”
The Stiegs didn’t do much with the lids for 25 years, until eBay and the Internet provided a willing market, which coincided with a burst of new interest in home canning and preserving. Brad Stieg, who has a background working in materials management and logistics, decided to help his dad sell some of the inventory.
As all the lids manufactured in the 1970s started to sell out, Stieg knew he needed to start production again. The father and son incorporated in 2010 to resurrect the business.
Stieg bought an injection-molding machine and started manufacturing at his rented space at the Grand Junction Business Incubator. The lids sold four times their projected demand in 2010.
In 2011, sales quadrupled over the previous year’s sales. And this year, Stieg expects to at least double sales from last year.
They are now manufactured in Colorado and Michigan.
What are Tattler lids made of?
From the Tattler website: We utilize an FDA and USDA approved, food grade product known as Polyoxymethylene Copolymer (POM) or Acetal Copolymer.
The rubber rings (gaskets) are made from a food grade nitrile rubber and contain no latex.
TATTLER Reusable Plastic Canning Lids are manufactured using a plastic compound that is safe for direct contact with food products.We utilize an FDA and USDA approved, food grade product known as Polyoxymethylene Copolymer (POM) or Acetal Copolymer.
The product we use is compliant with applicable FDA regulations for food contact subject to the limitations listed below.(Please visit the Tattler website for more information.)
Have there been any time periods where lid production did not take place or was greatly reduced?
No information available on dates or amount of product produced, although production has been increasing, as cited above.
How much free (unbonded) formaldehyde is typically found in the plastic of the lids (if this has been tested).
From the Tattler website:
Many questions have been asked about the existence of formaldehyde in Acetal Copolymer. While it is true formaldehyde is present in trace amounts, research proves it is only released at very high temperatures, well above any temperatures found in home food canning. Here are the facts.
Heating our brand of acetal copolymer above 460 degrees F (238 C) should be avoided. At these temperatures, formaldehyde, a colorless and irritating gas that can be harmful in high concentrations, is generated.
*Note: When I originally posted about uncombined formaldehyde in the Tattler lids after reading The Natural Canning Resource Book, it prompted a visit by Brad Stieg of Tattler, who shared the above information from the Tattler site.
Here is my concern:
When you have two ingredients going into a chemical reaction, A+ B=C. Unless the amounts of A and B equal exactly, down to the molecule, some of A or B will be left in the final product. Those “leftovers” are what could shed into your food with normal canning use – not the A and B that have already been converted to C. Risks should be minimal to the home canner, as the food within the jar is not in constant contact with the lid, but they do exist. I know many people are trying to reduce their use of plastic, or have immune systems that are already compromised, so I felt this was relevant.
Further, even if exposure levels to the consumer are low, those who work in the plants where these products are manufactured have much higher exposure rates, with accompanying health risks. For instance, here’s a formaldehyde toxicity study – http://oehha.ca.gov/air/chronic_rels/pdf/50000.pdf
“The binding of formaldehyde to endogenous proteins creates haptens that can elicit an immune response. Chronic exposure to formaldehyde has been associated with immunological hypersensitivity as measured by elevated circulating IgG and IgE autoantibodies to human serum albumin (Thrasher et al., 1987). In addition, a decrease in the proportion of T-cells was observed, indicating altered immunity. Thrasher et al. (1990) later found that long-term exposure to formaldehyde was associated with autoantibodies, immune activation, and formaldehyde-albumin adducts in patients occupationally exposed, or residents of mobile homes or of homes containing particleboard sub-flooring. The authors suggest that the hypersensitivity induced by formaldehyde may account for a mechanism for asthma and other health complaints associated with formaldehyde exposure.”
Among the occupations listed in the study were “chemical workers”. It doesn’t say specifically say that the people in the study were in any way responsible for your lids, only that they worked in the chemical industry and were exposed to formaldehyde.
What safety testing has been done on the lids?
From the Tattler FAQ page:
We have received letters from customers stating they have used the lids and rings for as many as 20 years until the rings finally stretched beyond use. That anecdotal evidence is backed up by our own research. Last summer (2010) we conducted a test using 14 lids and rings. The test materials were product we found in storage since 1976. They were used in both water bath and pressure canning tests over several weeks, during which time all were reused 14 times without failure. The 14th round was conducted on food items, most of which remain in storage awaiting use. We ended the test due to time constraints. When cared for properly, many years of use may be expected.
Positive online reviews of Tattler lids:
Reviews and Blogs about Tattler Reusable Lids – over 20 online reviews from the Tattler website
Negative online reviews of Tattler Lids:
Elizabeth L. Andress – Professor and Extension Food Safety Specialist –
The University of Georgia – Home Food Preservation Update notes that there may be quality issues due to retained oxygen in headspace, and there is no documentation of seal rate versus seal failures, vacuum levels obtained or maintenance of vacuum during storage.
What support services do you offer to home canners? Any other information on the lids or the company that you feel is important for consumers to know.
Comparison of Jarden Metal Lids and Tattler Reusable Canning Lids- Which is Better?
For my part, I prefer the metal lids, but many people prefer the Tattlers (see long list of glowing reviews). I have had higher failure rates, although that could be linked to user error. I like that the metal lids are basically “idiot proof”, if you will. There is no doubt about a failed seal, they are easy to use, I don't have to worry about the kids damaging the lids when they are pried off.
If I've got to get out the door when a pressure canner is still waiting to cool down, I can rush off without having to worry about failed seals. (With the Tattlers, you need to tighten the rings as soon as you can open the canner, so you must wait while it cools or risk seal failure.)
I appreciate the time, money and effort spent by Jarden Home Brands on testing product safety, their many years of experience and their dedicated customer support team.
My biggest concern with the Tattlers is the one mentioned by Elizabeth L. Andress – Professor and Extension Food Safety Specialist – The University of Georgia, and also expressed by another Master Canner I know – oxygen retained in the headspace.
Because the lid is largely inflexible, and the final seal comes after the processing as a result of tightening the band, it's tough to guarantee that all oxygen has been flushed out of the headspace. This is guaranteed with the metal lids, as the vacuum itself is what creates the seal. This could create conditions where it is possible for nasty microorganisms to grow. As a precaution, I'll stick with using my current Tattler lids for processing high acid foods (like fruit).
Neither lid option is perfect, but other options are expensive and have some concerns of their own. I would say that either lid paired with your home canned goods is a far better choice than most of what's on grocery store shelves.