Experts' Shocking Warning: Don't Let Fish Chew on Your Feet

By Patrick Morgan | February 28, 2011 12:26 pm

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, fearing the spread of infections, have now launched a major investigation into this allegedly fishy beauty technique.

In the UK, fish pedicures are booming, which is great for beauty clinics because the procedure costs upwards of £50 ($81 U.S.).  Visitors place their feet in a tank full of Garra rufa fish—a variety of Turkish toothless carp—and sit back while the fish eat away their dead skin. These foot-fetishistic fish have been nicknamed “doctor fish,” and though more and more UK citizens are dunking their feet, the UK’s Health Protection Agency (HPA) has a hunch that 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,  BBC News reports:

“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 rufa fish are pricey.

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—at least to the HPA’s knowledge—of fish-spa-induced infections in the UK. Despite this fact, just the thought of dunking one’s feet in the same vat of fish as countless other people is enough to make them squeamish, according to the Daily Mail:

Customer Max Langton, from North London, 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.’

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Image: flickr / permanently scatterbrained

  • Cathy

    I think I’ll stick with my traditional mani-pedis for $40 that also come with a nice hour long back and foot massage.

  • Shar

    Lol…I don’t really know if I’d try it, but I think I’d rather risk my feet with the fish than my body in the public swimming pool. (And Cathy, where are you going to get pedi for $40 PLUS a back and foot massage? I wanna go there, too!)

  • doug nusbaum

    Ahh… leave it to the government to aggressively and expensively solve a problem that does not actually exist.

  • Enema Cowboy

    “Don’t chew on me Baby,
    Don’t chew on me, Owwwww!”

    Sorry Folks

  • what causes psoriasis

    thlete’s foot can usually be diagnosed by visual inspection of the skin, but where the diagnosis is in doubt direct microscopy of a potassium hydroxide preparation (known as a KOH test) may help rule out other possible causes, such as eczema or psoriasis.[7]
    A KOH preparation is performed on skin scrapings from the affected
    area. The KOH preparation has an excellent positive predictive value,
    but occasionally false negative results may be obtained, especially if treatment with an antifungal medication has already begun

  • Angela Sullivan

    ooow no way would i do this oooo

  • Sithu Aung

     how to get these fish and wht they take food …. plz inform me … thz

  • Chrs629

    The spa owners have said repeatedly that the water is changed in the tank after each use and no group of fish is used in the same day. They rotate the fish. Add that to the fact that no one has produced evidence of this spread of disease. I think this is a great idea. Besides any pedicure can be dangerous. A friend of my aunt had to have an amputation after a regular pedicure. She was a diabetic and got an infection after a pedi. The sanitation depends on the diligence of the spa. Plain and simple.

  • Tal

    That person has one ugly foot

  • Starnexus

    Come to southern Mexico. These guys are in almost every river and stream here so you can get this for free and I´ve never heard of anyone getting sick from it. I had a rash on my foot and the fish helped it.


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