Can You Eat Freshwater Clams or Are They Harmful?

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If you do not know about mussels or a clam, then chances are that you are missing out on a lot of scrumptious seafood dishes. Clam is a seafood delicacy that people adore. Perhaps this is exactly why 112 million pounds of clams are harvested each year. This, in itself, is a huge number and it should be sufficient to make people realize how good they are.

What Are Clams?

Have you ever seen two shells carefully closed upon each other? Between them, could be an edible clam. Well, to be fair, only edible ones are called clams.

They have two shells that are stuck to each other, since they are connected by it. One can find clams in fresh waters as well as any marine environment that promotes their habitat. However, you may not find a clam in saltwater that easily.

It is because they like to hide deep into the mud in salt waters. Most clams are found in North America, according to various sources.

Clams in Fresh Waters

The most important question here is can you eat fresh water clams? The short answer to this question is, yes. You can definitely eat clams that are harvested from fresh waters. Now, onto the full, long answer. Even though freshwater clams can be consumed without a hassle, some factors need to be kept in mind just to be on the safe side.

To be fair, clams are filter feeders, this means that they will have chemicals and toxins in them. So eating a wild clam could put you at risk. You might end up with a digestive issue due to the unclean clam. Speaking of unhygienic clams, it is very important to clean them thoroughly.

Therefore, it is better not to eat clams from places that don’t know how to clean them properly. Getting rid of the nasty, toxic elements is critical. In fact, this is what could save you from dying, or extreme discomfort followed by a huge medical bill at a restaurant.

Eating Clams

So if you really want to save money, eat at a reliable and authentic place. You will end up spending less at places that have unprofessional cooks who are lenient with their cleanliness, but if the clams are not cleaned properly, you could get a foodborne illness.

This is not a good situation to be in if you are a pregnant woman, an elderly person, a young child, or a person with a compromised immune system. These people are at greater risk because their bodies are not equipped to deal with what the unclean clam has to offer.

On a side note, even if you do not apply to the bracket mentioned above, it is still not recommended to venture out by trying all types of clam restaurants and eateries that sell cooked clams for clam chowder.

Falling Sick

Consuming a clam that has not passed the test for hygiene can be a disaster. There are high chances that you will not end up knowing if the clam you have eaten had harmful bacteria or was uninspected recently. If you feel ill, then contact medical assistance immediately.

Be very careful when eating raw clams. Since they are not cooked, there is more probability for the toxins and harmful substances to still be there.  When clams are cleaned properly, most of the waste material and dirt particles are cleared away.

The rest of the cleaning happens with cooking. By cooking with hot temperatures, people can eliminate almost all chances of anything going bad during the experience of eating clams.

What to Do?  

In some situations, you can start feeling ill or sick immediately after consuming them. There are several symptoms that your body could begin to show. You may feel pain in your stomach, and this could be followed by severe vomiting. This is what generally happens when a person’s body is trying to reject what they ate.

In the worst cases, the problem can extend, so contacting a doctor is your best bet. Tell them about your situation and they will begin treatment.

More About Freshwater Clams

Most freshwater clams go unnoticed because they like to hide themselves under the soft soil. This prevents them from being found by people, but not all of them get to walk away with freedom. Interestingly, they grow their eggs in special pouches inside their shells.

These eggs then grow up to form full clams as well. When they develop to a larger size, the parent clams drop them out and that is how you know the young one is ready to fly from the nest. In the end, the matter of can you eat freshwater clams or are they harmful also has a lot to do with personal choice. 

Otherwise, they are safe for consumption when cleaned but should be avoided otherwise. When you are at a restaurant, you might want to check in with the chef or owner about choosing a clam dish. Whether it is advisable to eat clams or not has a lot to do with their water, the health of the clam, and the harvesting practices.


The first factor is the place the clam was found. Clams eat tiny organisms, and these organisms contain pollutants and toxic substances in them. Clams have an ability to clear out these harmful substances but this also means that they carry it with them too.

These pollutants are dangerous for humans. If you want to greatly reduce the chances of getting sick from eating clams, then go for lakes or rivers that are known to have less pollution.

Dead or Alive

Another factor is whether the clam was dead or alive during the time of harvesting. Dead clams have a higher chance of carrying all sorts of bacteria in them. Eating fresh clams can save you from a lot of trouble.

Think about it. Have you ever seen a carcass of an animal that is left unattended? What happens to it? Several flies and insects are crawling over the animal because they are attracted to the foul smell and the bacteria all over it. This, in turn, invites more bacteria to the show.

Harvesting Technique

The last factor is the harvesting technique. It is very important to know the quality of the water. If you or someone you know is planning to harvest clams from a body of water, then check the quality of the water first. This will involve doing some research and getting deep into it.

Most of the time, a majority of people who eat clams often do not think about these things. It may be because they have not faced a foodborne illness as of yet. They could either be extremely lucky or the place they have their clams knows how to clean them properly. This is something that you cannot let go of. Unclean clams are harmful to our body, and immediate medical intervention is required to fix the damage of eating them.


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