Ipswich: Something fishy going on

IPSWICH: A salon offering fish pedicures has today refuted health experts’ claims they can spread harmful infections.

Owners of The Lock HairWorks have hit out at the Health Protection Agency (HPA), accusing them of using “scare-mongering tactics” to put people off having the popular foot-nibbling treatment.

The HPA has said there is a risk the garra rufa fish could spread bacteria and also warned there is a risk of blood-borne viruses such as HIV and hepatitis being transmitted if infected clients bleed in spa water that is re-used. It claims the risks are “low but could not be completely excluded”, but their statement has caused a stir at salons around the country.

Tara Fountain, who co-owns The Lock, in College Street, with husband Nathan, said: “It’s a shame this has come out as it could impact on small, independent businesses trying to survive in today’s economic climate.

“I think it’s just another scare-mongering tactic. We seem to be becoming a big society of scaremongers instead of letting people make their own decisions and choices.”

The HPA set up a fish spa working party to produce guidance for the treatment after receiving numerous enquiries from environmental health departments.

Experts deemed the “overall risk of infection is likely to be very low” but those with diabetes, psoriasis or with weakened immune systems are especially vulnerable and should avoid the treatment.

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Mrs Fountain, who opened the salon in June, added: “We ensure every customer has a foot spa before and after a fish pedicure and must be treated individually.

“We don’t allow anyone with open wounds, verrucas or contagious conditions to use the tanks.”

Mrs Fountain said the salon follows strict standards of cleanliness and that thorough checks need to be implemented at all salons.

“Tests such as water quality and ph testing should be brought in to monitor the cleanliness of the water and ensure the highest level of hygiene possible,” she added.

Dr Paul Cosford, director of health protection services at the HPA, said: “As with any beauty salon, it’s really important that strict standards of cleanliness are followed, to ensure that the risk of infection is kept to a minimum.

“If a member of the public is concerned about the level of cleanliness of a salon, they should report to their local environmental health department.”

A spokesman for HIV charity Terrence Higgins Trust said: “The reality is, in this country, too many people are contracting HIV because they aren’t using condoms, not because they’re going for fish pedicures.”

n Would you still have the treatment? Write to Your Letters, The Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or send us an e-mail to eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk