Why Can’t You Eat Mussels Raw?

If someone mentions the word mussels to you, what is the first thing that comes to mind? If you are a person that likes seafood, you will probably start thinking of how tasty mussels are, that is, if you are not allergic to mussels. You probably also wonder why you can’t eat mussels raw?

It can be hazardous if mussels are ingested when raw or just slightly undercooked. The consumer might be exposed to a bacterium called Vibrio Parahaemolyticus when mussels aren’t properly cooked, which can cause a person to get very ill or cause food poisoning.

If you want to explore seafood and the different types and textures, you probably wonder why some people consider certain types of seafood safe to eat raw while others are not. For example, a delicacy like sushi is safe and can be eaten raw, but other kinds of seafood like mussels cannot.

Why Can’t You Eat Mussels Raw?

There are different medical conditions that someone can develop when eating raw mussels. These medical conditions vary according to the different species of mussels. Here are some examples:

  • Certain species of mussels contain bacteria known as Vibrio parahaemolyticus. This bacterium can cause mild to severe food poisoning.
  • Other mussel species found in warmer climates that might have been imported from countries like Malaysia, Thailand, and the Philippines feed on algae called Alexandrium, which contains a neurotoxin called Saxitoxin that is the most common cause of paralytic shellfish poisoning.
  • People with a compromised immune system, like older people, pregnant women, or even small children, are at higher risk of developing symptoms of these illnesses when eating raw mussels.

Medical Conditions & Their Symptoms From Eating Raw Mussels

Let’s look at the various symptoms of the medical conditions caused by eating raw or infected mussels in more detail.

Vibrio Parahaemolyticus Caused By Eating Mussels Raw

Vibrio parahaemolyticus is a food-borne bacterium that typically causes an intestinal infection, but consumers can also get wound and blood infections when handling mussels raw. These bacteria present higher infection rates and are more common in summer.

Symptoms Of Infection After Eating Raw Mussels

These are the symptoms of getting infected with Vibrio Parahaemolyticus caused by eating raw mussels:

  • Lower and gastral intestinal distress can lead to diarrhea and cramps.
  • In severe infections, people may experience nausea and vomiting accompanied by diarrhea and cramps.
  • In mild cases, people showed symptoms like headaches, chills, and fever.

How To Prepare Mussels

If you like eating seafood, cooking mussels can be delicious, and there are so many different recipes and methods to choose from and use. Many recipes require that mussels are steamed while still in the shell, while others require the mussels are cooked and removed from the shell.

Whichever way the person chooses to prepare and serve the mussels, one factor remains that they must be properly cooked and not raw before serving. There are so many different textures when cooking mussels, but they can be delicious if done correctly.

Tips For Preparing And Cleaning Mussels

People should clean mussels only an hour before using them for cooking. When using fresh mussels, tap open mussels on the counter to see if they might still be alive, and discard any that do not immediately close up again. It’s essential to soak the mussels in cold water for an hour with a sprinkle of salt added to the water.

Then scrub the mussels using a small brush or take a paring knife to remove anything that still clings to the shell when removing the mussel. Remove the beard that sticks out between the shells. The beard is what mussels use to attach to rocks and various surfaces in the ocean.

Suggestions For Cooking Mussels

Everyone has their way and ideas when cooking food; when it comes to mussels, it doesn’t matter what method of cooking you use cooking your mussels as long as they are fully cooked and not served raw. The main thing to consider when preparing mussels is that they cannot be eaten raw.

The rest is entirely up to the person cooking them, what method or recipe is easiest for them or which way of cooking serves up the tastiest mussels. Here are a few cooking methods when preparing mussels:

  • Steaming the mussels
  • The mussels can be pan-roasted
  • Mussels can be grilled
  • Smoking the mussels

The time it takes to cook the mussels will depend on which method you will use to prepare them and on the number of mussels you will be cooking at a time. It also depends on whether you will be using mussels out of the shell or still in the shell, depending on whether the mussels are fresh, precooked, or smoked.

Typically mussels will take between 5 and 7 minutes to cook thoroughly, depending on the method you will be using. When steaming the mussels, steam them extra hot with a lid on; they should be steamed in about 5 minutes.

These are just a few ideas when cooking or preparing mussels in the kitchen. They can be pretty tasty and aren’t harmful when not consumed raw. Mussels are full of iron, vitamins, protein, and minerals a person will need for a healthy diet.

How To Test If Your Mussels Are Cooked And Not Raw

The first thing to look out for when cooking your mussels is that when mussels are cooked still in the shell, the shell will open up as a sign that the mussels are done cooking and won’t be raw.

When mussels are being cooked, if they turn a dark orange color, that is a good sign that the mussels are cooked and done. Be careful not to overcook the mussels as they become dry and pale, or they will reduce their weight. 

Are There Kinds Of Seafood That People Can Eat Raw?

There are types of fish and seafood that can be eaten raw:

Seafood Types That People Can Eat Raw:

  • Seabass
  • Swordfish
  • Salmon
  • Trout
  • Mackerel
  • Tuna

These are just a few fish types considered safe when eaten raw. Other examples include shrimp, crab, eel, octopus, and scallops. These types of seafood are all considered safe to be eaten raw. 

shutterstock 1494161156


Eating raw mussels isn’t healthy; when people eat raw mussels, they expose themselves to the risk of contaminating infections caused by the bacteria in them. The person can also suffer from food poisoning from eating mussels and shellfish raw.

Some types of seafood can be eaten raw, but mussels aren’t one of them. Eating mussels that aren’t raw and adequately cooked is always safer and advised.