Is It Safe To Eat Raw Clams?

We really eat lots of unusual things. For example, take clams. What are they, anyway? Britannica reports that clams are actually mollosks inside a shell and they can usually be found in bottom of freshwater or seawater. And if you're a fan of clams, you've probably eaten some classic dishes like the traditional Italian spaghetti alle vongole (spaghetti with clams, garlic, and parsley), or the beloved New England clam chowder, which dates back to the 1700s, when European or Canadian settlers brought it to the region, according to "Savoring Gotham: A Food Lovers Companion to New York City." 

Many people love eating oysters, which are supposed to be aphrodisiacs, according to Medical News Today. Some of the best oysters in the world include Kumamoto oysters, Pacific oysters, Sydney rock oysters, Atlantic oysters, and Gulf Coast oysters (via Michelin Guide). Yes, oysters can be broiled, steamed, stewed, and fried. However, they are most commonly eaten raw, fresh, live, and swallowed whole, which can be a bit tricky if you're not used to it (via MasterClass). Is it really safe to eat raw clams?

Raw clams should be fresh, clean, and kept on ice

Fans of eating these bivalved mollusks might be surprised to find out that eating raw clams is generally considered safe, but it's important to know how the shellfish is handled and stored in order to reduce the risk of illness. One such illness is vibriosis, caused by bacteria found in warm saltwater. The illness causes vomiting, fever, cramps, and diarrhea, so it's best to avoid it in any way possible (via NY Department of Health). In order to prevent or reduce the risk of getting vibriosis, it's important to refrigerate clams and oysters, keep them away from other food, clean your kitchen surfaces, and wash your hands after handling them. If you don't have shellfish phobias and you're boiling or steaming clams, discard any that do not open their shells. 

When buying clams, look for those that are clean and don't have any sand or mud. The best clams are placed on ice to keep them fresh, and the shells should always be closed. Those that aren't closed shouldn't go in your shopping bag. There's one other tip — fresh clams should always smell like the ocean (per FSR Magazine). With all of that in mind, you should be good when eating raw clams. In the end, you shouldn't miss out on one of life's many joys – as Rick Karney, director of the Martha's Vineyard Shellfish Group says, "nothing could be more local than a raw shellfish" (via Serious Eats).