Danger of Shlissel Challah?


As 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.

{CB Frommer-Matzav.com Newscenter}


    • That article is utter drivel:

      “At least one old Irish source tells how at times when a town was under attack, the men said, “let our women-folk be instructed in the art of baking cakes containing keys.” [7]”

      If you look at the footnote, this “old Irish source” turns out to be from a book called “Best of Myles”, which I looked up, and found to be a collection of articles from a 20th cent. Irish novelist. Not only that, but the approbation right on the top of the FRONT COVER states that the book is “intoxicatingly funny.”

      While I strongly despise the whole Shlissel Challah thing (and segulas in general), I dislike ‘pseudo-academic research masquerading as fact’ even more. To be clear, I do believe it is quite likely based on non jewish origins, but it is far from being fact.

  1. There is a minhag among some groups to shape the top of a challah like a key instead of putting one in it. The other simple solution is to wrap the key in a small piece of tin foil

  2. We don’t make a key challah after Pesach. Instead we make something before Pesach to put the key in. We call it the door bread, because it is in the shape of door. I understand people in E”Y call it מצה.

  3. RAM: Are you sure? I mean the Sefer Taamei Haminhagim ties it to the fact that the Mann stopped on Tes Vav Nissan in the year after the yidden entered Eretz Yisroel and since HKBH holds the “keys” to parnassah….

  4. Key Vesheim Kodshoi Vatachnu

    Thousands of women will be baking today (Erev Shabbos after Pesach) “Schlissel Challah”.
    This Chasidic Minhag. (Ohev Yisroel- Apter Rav zt”l) has recently been adopted
    by all women regardless of family background.

    The Minhag of חלת עני is at least 500 years older than Schlissel Chalah. It goes back to the times
    of the Rishonim (Rosh) and yet very few have ever heard of it. Most women (& men) don’t know
    which Erev Shabbos it is baked.

    The Minhag of the four corner Challah also goes back to the times of the Rishonim (Kol Bo) and
    here too, most women & men don’t know when to bake it.

    I am just wondering, what’s the key to the success of the Schlissel Challah over the other Challohs.


  5. I dont use an actual key, its not safe and besides has tons of germs. I shape top of dough into a key – safest and easiest.

  6. I wrap a key in parchment paper (I don’t like to use aluminum foil) and put that in my challah and I also make challah in the shape of a key. I also poke holes into a challah (wrapped in paper) to cover all minhagim.

  7. People are attracted to an alleged segulah for parnassah that costs little or nothing. Especially women, who are usually baking the challah.

    It is not followed by all though.

    It is not minhag Lubavitch. Or Litvish. Or Sephardim.

    Not everyone does it. Despite what some would like you to believe.

  8. And eating oily kugel griven, chulent, schnitzel, kishke, liver, ptcha, shmaltz herring and kokosh cake on a weekly basis is healthier?


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here