Danger of Eating Shlissel Challah?


shlissel-challahAs is well known, there is a minhag to make shlissel challah for the Shabbos after Pesach. Shlissel challahs are best known as a segulah for parnassah, although there are other several reasons for baking a challah with a key in it. However, some have raised health concerns regarding this minhag. Keys have been found to leave behind unsafe amounts of lead, leading some to suggest that the practice of placing keys in challahs in making shlissel challah may present a danger.

Brass is a soft metal, so lead is added to give keys more strength. Some keys have a silver-colored nickel coating over top the brass, but this wears away. Sucking on car keys is dangerous. Even handling car keys can leave lead on one’s hands. Not all keys are brass; some are aluminum and are lighter weight.

Never give a child real car keys or brass items to play with. Adults should wash hands after handling keys or other brass items, especially if pregnant.

For more info, see here.

In light of the above, some have wondered what harm one may be doing to one’s family by baking a shlissel challah and letting them eat it.

The following report has appeared in The San Diego Union Tribune:

Keys found to leave behind unsafe amounts of lead!

Attorney general files lawsuit over lead content in brass keys

By Caitlin Rother

So you thought you were safe after getting rid of your lead pipes and lead paint.

According to the latest public health warning, now you have to watch yourself and your children around keys.

The warning, which came in state Attorney General Bill Lockyer’s lawsuit this week against 13 manufacturers of brass keys, has some parents in San Diego concerned and confused.

Lockyer’s office found that when the keys are used as intended – held in the hands for 15 seconds while unlocking something – lead in the keys is deposited on the fingers at amounts well above the safe level. Proposition 65, the state measure adopted in 1986 that requires public notice about toxic materials, limits exposure to 0.5 microgram a day.

Lauri Bollinger, a health-conscious parent in El Cajon, said that after the state’s warning she realized she should not have let her toddler chew on her key ring.

But Bollinger does not know what to do with all of her brass keys, each of which contains about 2 percent lead. Similarly, retailers and key manufacturers were left scratching their heads about what to do with this common item that has been around for years with no apparent ill effect on people.

Toxicologists say children under 6 are more vulnerable than adults to lead poisoning, which can cause a decrease in intelligence, clumsiness, a loss of appetite and sleep, and abdominal cramps. And every parent knows that children like to put things in their mouths.

Lead poisoning can be treated with medication.

After learning about the lawsuit, Bollinger, 35, grew more worried when her keys registered in the dangerous level on her home lead tester.

Lockyer said some keys leave lead on hands at a level that is up to 80 times above the 0.5 microgram per-day limit, while the average level detected on hands was about 19 times above the “no significant risk level.”

“My house keys and my car keys that I use every day tested positive,” Bollinger said. “I’d like to figure out how to get nonleaded keys.”

Master Lock Co., one of the manufacturers named in the lawsuit Lockyer filed Tuesday, does not know what it is supposed to do any more than Bollinger does.

“We’re waiting for the other shoe to drop,” said Master Lock Spokesman Todd Robert Murphy. “I mean, what’s (Lockyer) want?”

The lawsuit asks the court for injunctions to prevent the manufacturers from exposing California residents to lead in keys “without first providing clear and reasonable warnings,” and to pay the costs of bringing the suit.

Murphy said the lawsuit came as a total surprise because Master Lock never has received a complaint from any parent whose child got sick after using keys as a teething ring.

“How much damage is actually being done?” He said. “Who is actually being hurt by these products?”

Some car keys are made of stainless steel and contain only trace amounts of lead. But most keys on the market are made of brass because they are more durable and are less likely to break off in a lock. The lead makes the brass easier to cut.

Small retailers such as San Diego Hardware and big chains such as The Home Depot say they use brass key-cutting equipment and make copies using only brass keys. Company representatives at both stores said their key cutters do not wear gloves because it would be too difficult to do the work.

Like Murphy, Bill Haynsworth, an owner of San Diego Hardware, voiced some skepticism about the potential hazards of lead in keys.

“I kind of felt as though there’s possible carcinogens in everything you touch in this world,” Haynsworth said. “Maybe it’s a really bad thing, but at this point, I tend to shrug it off as kind of premature to say the keys have a dangerous amount of lead in them until they do studies that back that up.”

What should people do in the meantime?

“Don’t ask me,” Haynsworth said. “I have no idea.”

State health officials suggested that consumers do what Bollinger did – check lead levels with home detections kits, which can be purchased at many home improvement and hardware stores. People also can contact manufacturers for more specific information on key composition.

Poison control officials and lead experts said this was the first time they had heard about the potential hazards of lead in keys. Sandra Michioku, a Lockyer spokeswoman, said the intent of the lawsuit is to make consumers aware that keys can be a source of lead exposure.

Health officials also suggest that, like Bollinger, concerned parents contact their doctors and ask for a blood lead test.

They recommend that people thoroughly wash their hands after handling keys, particularly before preparing food, eating, smoking, applying makeup or engaging in activities that bring the hands near the face or mouth. They warn parents not to let small children put keys in their mouths and to tell older children to wash their hands after playing with keys.

Consumers can reduce contact with the lead in keys by placing plastic or rubber covers over the heads.

{Noam Amdurski-Matzav.com Newscenter}


  1. oh come on—do we have to dissect every single thing—-get a life—don’t do a minhag if you don’t want to —but don’t knock it

  2. Not sure if it helps with the lead, but a few years ago we started wrapping the key in foil before putting in the challah.

  3. Same garbage articles every year! Yeh, if you bake Challa with a key in it, you will die a horrible death! Wow!

  4. Okay every year I read this article, and there are so many ways around this issue:
    1. Wrap key in foil (after knowing how dirty keys are from learning the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch this should be common sense)
    2. Some people bake a challah in the shape of a key
    3. Alternatively, some just bake a normal challah with a key shaped piece on top
    4. Minhag Nadvorna is to make a flat dough a la matzah then say the tefilah said at melave malka starting off Ribon Kol Olamim, every time the sha’are is said poke a hole in the dough with the key to aron kodesh

    Be creative think of your own way to keep this minhag of the Talmide Ba’al Shem Tov, while keeping your family safe.

    FYI if your worried about your baby putting metal in his/her mouth, plastic is not any safer.

  5. 1) wrap the key in silver foil
    2) bake the challah in the shape of a key (minhag of many chassidus)
    3) form a key out of dough on the top of your challah
    suggestion #2 and #3 take care of the problem entirely

  6. I don’t have this minhag, but please send me immediately all the unwanted and supposedly unsafe shlissel challah you baked, please do so before they get stale. We will eat as much as we can, even though Shabbos is over and thus we don’t get the segulah to work as intended. We finished our bread and everyone in this house is too tired to bake for the weekdays. Sounds like the perfect solution doesnt it?
    If you are paranoid enough I may also be able to sell you some metal detection kits, and in the event they convince you to stop eating just about everything, I may be able to produce for you some strictly synthetic nutrients which don’t have any traces of heavy metals, radioactivity etc. and of course are perfectly kosher, having been manufactured from unedible substances. Only thing, you have to ask your own Rabbi about the blessing on that “food”, I have no clue about the blessing, I can only tell you I bless G-d I can eat normal unhealthy food instead.