Can You Eat River Mussels?

Pot of Mussels image by Joseph Borg from

Although they taste different than saltwater mussels, you can eat river mussels and other freshwater mussels. Regional pollution and environmental laws may provide exceptions to what river mussels you can eat.


Saltwater mussels cling to coastlines using the byssal threads part of their body, while freshwater mussels use their foot to burrow into the beds of rivers and streams. The different methods of movement result in a tender muscular foot for saltwater mussels and a much tougher foot for river mussels. The rougher texture of river mussels does not make river mussels inedible, but you may not like the tough texture.


Due to their burrowing habits, the freshwater mussels store pollution materials, such as metals, in the soft tissues and foot. Eating mussels that are contaminated with toxins can make you ill. But the danger of eating contaminated mussels also exists in saltwater mussels, meaning that river mussels are not unique in this potential danger.

Environment and Law

Almost half of all species of freshwater mussels are considered endangered species, according to the University of Massachusetts Amherst's website. As a result, some species of river mussels are protected by law and depending on regional law, are illegal to consume.