Eating food that was touched

Q&A on touching food and liquids

What is the law of food or drink that was touched prior to washing hands in the morning after awakening?[1]

The dispute amongst Poskim: Many Poskim[2] rule the food and drink remains permitted to be eaten. Other Poskim[3] rule that it may not be eaten due to danger. This applies even if the food and the hands were dry.[4] Others[5] rule that one is allowed to eat the food if he washes it three times [if the food is hard and hence the water does not absorb inside[6]]. Alternatively, according to this opinion, one may remove a peels worth from the food.[7] According to this opinion liquids that are touched do not have a way of being fixed, and thus may not be drunk.

The Final Ruling: People today are accustomed to be lenient to purchase foods that may have been touched by impure hands.[8] Nevertheless Lechatchilah it is proper not to buy any foods or drinks that one knows for certain were touched by a Jew who did not wash his hands properly three times beforehand.[9] Likewise one is to supervise that the Jewish workers in one’s kitchen wash their hands before touching food.[10] If ones food was touched, it is proper for a G-d fearing Jew to wash the food three times or remove a peels worth.

Touched by a gentile: One may even initially eat foods that were touched by a gentile after awakening as explained in Halacha C.

Touched by a child: See footnote.[11]


What is the law if one touched a vessel that contains food or liquid?

The food and liquid remain pure.[12]


[1] See Ketzos Hashulchan 2 footnote 7; Kaf Hachaim 4/20; Piskeiy Teshuvos 4/10

[2] Elya Raba; Seder Hayom; Misgeres Hashulchan [brought in Ketzos Hashulchan ibid]; Chayeh Adam 2/2 rule the food remains permitted. The M”B 4/14 and Mishmeres Shalom 1/4 conclude that initially one is to wash the food three times, although if this is not possible the food is permitted. See also Toras Chaim Sofer 6; Keren Ledavid 1/1; Halichos Shlomo 20/25; Yabia Omer 4/1; Even Yisrael 7/1

[3] Derech Chaim 1/2; Amudei Hashulchan [brought in Kaf Hachaim ibid] writes that a G-d fearing Jew is to be stringent upon himself and not eat it.

Opinion of Admur: From the wording of Admur in Basra 4/2 it is implied that one is not allowed to eat food touched by one who did not wash his hands and it is only by a child below Chinuch that one may be lenient. The Ketzos Hashulchan ibid does not make mention of this inference.

Story with the Vilna Gaon: The Gra was once brought a basket of apples to his table. The Gra”z [Rav Zalman-Brother of Rav Chaim Volozhin] fell asleep and touched the basked when he woke up. The Gr”a ordered the apples to be cut into small pieces and discarded in the toilet. [Maaseh Rav 25; Tzitz Eliezer 13/2]

[4] Piskeiy Teshuvos 4/10

[5] Artzos Hachaim 32 [Malbim] brought in M”B 4/14; Ketzos Hashulchan ibid; So rules also Lev Chaim [Rav Chaim Falagi] 1/67. The M”B ibid and Mishmeres Shalom ibid concludes to initially be stringent like this opinion. See however Divrei Yatziv 1/1.

[6] Lev Chaim ibid

[7] Lev Chaim ibid

[8] Ketzos Hashulchan ibid as it is very difficult to supervise that all the non-religious Jewish workers dealing with foods wash their hands beforehand. [ibid]

[9] Even if one were to argue that the impure spirit cannot damage, nevertheless it certainly does bring one bad character traits and a tainted heart just as do non-Kosher foods. [Ketzos Hashulchan ibid; Minchas Ahron 1/12 in name of Shlah; Toras Chaim Sofer 6]

[10] Halichos Shlomo 20/25

[11] Some learn from Admur Basra 4/2 that one is to avoid eating foods or drinks that were touched by children above the age of Chinuch and it is even proper to avoid eating food touched by them starting from their Bris. Vetzaruch Iyun as perhaps the intent there of Admur was simply regarding washing their hands prior to initially allowing them to touch food and not regarding the law if Bedieved they already touched the food. So also understands the Ketzos Hashulchan ibid which does not use that Halacha in Admur as a source for the ruling of whether Bedieved the food may be eaten. See above Halacha C for further details on this subject.

[12] It does not state anywhere in Poskim that one may not hold onto vessels that contain food prior to washing due to it contaminating the food. Furthermore every morning one holds the bucket of water with his impure hands during the washing, even though if the washing water is contaminated it becomes invalid. This proves that merely holding onto a vessel does not impurify the food inside.

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