The next time fish-pedicure enthusiasts dunk their feet in a vat of squirming, skin-nibbling, toothless carp, they may get more than they bargained for—especially if those fish just feasted on diseased skin. Health officials in the UK, fearing the spread of infections, such as HIV and hepatitis as well as general fungal feet infections some people are prone to, have now launched a major investigation into this allegedly fishy beauty technique.
I’ve only in the past couple of months seen this new salon craze emerge in some boutique salons and also a Thai restuarant in Monte Casino. The fish pedicure can cost anything between R220 up to R600, which is what I’ve seen them advertised for and as such the salons offering them will be punting this to their customers as what an easy wad of money to make. With minimal effort from the salon therapists. Salons clients dip their feet into a tank full of Garra – a variety of Turkish carp – and sit back while the fish eat the dead skin off their feet.
It emerged recently in the past few weeks in the UK that the UK health protection agency (UKPA) thinks this procedure may be doing more harm than good. Over the past six months, several environmental health officers have contacted the HPA about the dangers of fish pedicures, leading to the present investigation, which hopes to discover whether fish spa pedicures spread infections. Quoting an HPA agency member, the BBC news said “Alongside colleagues in environmental health, Health Protection Scotland and the Health and Safety Laboratory, the HPA will examine the most up to date evidence of any possible risks associated with Garra rufa fish pedicures and will publish guidelines that will be available UK-wide.”
If commercial fish pedicures are banned, the UK would be following the lead of 14 U.S. states that have already outlawed the procedure. In the U.S., the major concern was how spas reuse the fish on many customers—a practice they’re forced to do because Garra fish are pricey. I highly doubt banning fish pedicures would be on the top priority list of the South African health agencies, as we are faced with larger and bigger problems however the thought is still scary to imagine you could contract a life chaning disease from one of these treatments.
But salons are defending their practices by pointing out that diseases don’t stand a chance in their UV-lit, filtered tanks. And their position is buffered by the little fact that there are as yet no known cases of fish-spa-induced infections in the UK. Just the thought of dunking one’s feet in the same vat of fish as countless other people is enough to make me squeamish, this news has really put me off the idea all together.
The BBC also reported on a customer Max Langton, from North London, who said “I had a pedicure from one of the new high street chains. I was put off when a man sitting opposite me said he had something wrong with his foot and hoped the fish were enjoying it.” He added: “We were asked if we had any fungal infections, but no one checked.”
So, pouters – will you be trying this? ha ha I’m going to give this one a miss…