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Fish pedicure “infection risk very low” according to experts

A local fish spa has welcomed the publication of a report on the fish pedicure industry by the Health Protection Agency.

Fish pedicures have become popular in recent years using Garra Rufa fish to literally nibble away at hands and feet. Most high streets have seen a fish pedicure spa open and it remains a largely unregulated area.

The fish nibble at the dry skin but do not ingest it, people spend around 15 minutes with their hands or feet in the tank.

The HPA Report concluded that the risk of infection associated with Garra rufa fish pedicures is likely to be very low.

Dr Hilary Kirkbride, consultant epidemiologist at the HPA, said:

Provided that good standards of hygiene are followed by salons, members of the public are unlikely to get an infection from a fish spa pedicure, however the risk will be higher for certain people.

This is why we feel it’s important for salons to ensure the client has no underlying health conditions that could put them at risk, and that a thorough foot examination is performed, to make sure there are no cuts, grazes or existing skin conditions that could spread infection.

Anyone considering a fish pedicure can help reduce the risk of infection – both to themselves and others – by taking simple precautions. Allowing any cuts or infections you may have on your feet or legs to heal before having the treatment, and waiting at least 24 hours after having a leg wax or shaving, will minimise your chances of catching anything. If you do experience any ill effects after the treatment, you should visit your GP.


Rachel Israel opened a dedicated Fish Spa (The Natural Foot Spa) on Beulah Street in Harrogate in April 2011.

Rachel said:

As long as spa’s diligently exercise very strict procedures, as we do, in the Health Questionnaires and the inspection of customer’s feet and hands, there is a miniscule risk. Regrettably, as in all beauty treatments including hairdressers, surgical procedures etc, nothing is ever 100% risk free.

As a company I approached the Harrogate Borough Council and Environmental Health before opening the Natural Foot Spa to fully reveal all our procedures, tank maintenance and water testing. They visited our Spa to take random water samples which they send off for their own testing.

We continued to work with the Council to examine if any changes or new procedures can be implemented and to have the industry regulated.

All of my staff are fully trained with regular on-going training.

When customers arrive at the spa they are asked to complete a health questionnaire before their feet and hands are then inspected and cleaned. We have no reservation in declining a fish pedicure or manicure to any customer that does not meet our strict health and hygiene criteria.

We do not even allow customers to walk on the floor with bare feet to eliminate the possible spread of Verrucas, athlete’s foot, fungal nail infections etc.


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