EASTBOURNE’S fish spas have poured cold water over a health warning to their customers and have insisted they have very strict hygiene rules.
The spas are filled with small garra rufa fish which nibble at customers’ feet and provide an unusual pedicure.
In the past year hundreds of businesses have sprung up in beauty salons and hairdressers across the country - several are operating in Eastbourne.
This week the Health Protection Agency has said the spas run the risk of transmitting infections such as HIV and hepatitis, and warned that people with diabetes, psoriasis and weakened immune systems should avoid them.
However, they said the risk was ‘extremely low’ if the correct hygiene procedures were followed.
Two businesses which operate in the Eastbourne area have told the Herald they have full confidence in the safety of their fish spas.
Michelle Yarwood, the owner of Chelle’s in Pevensey Bay, said, “Every one of my customers has their feet checked before they go into the water.
“I change the water between every customer and at the end of the day.
“The water is constantly filtered and an ultra-violet lights deal with any potential bacteria.
“I test the water and Wealden District Council has also checked it and is in the process of bringing out new guidelines.
“The welfare of the fish is also very important and I regularly test the nitrate and ammonia levels in the water.”
A spokesperson for Appy Feet, a national chain of businesses which has a branch at the Arndale Centre, said, “Appy Feet is a responsible fish spa business.
“The safety and wellbeing of both our customers and fish is our top priority.
“We operate under strict health and safety guidelines, and work very closely with the Health & Safety Executive, and local authorities, to ensure our spas are of the highest standard.
“Our tanks are operated in line with industry regulations. Appy Feet has a specially designed filtration system, developed and managed by a marine biologist, which sterilises the water up to eight times an hour, and the UV systems used ensure no diseases can live in the water.
“Every customer is required to complete a full health questionnaire, followed by a food inspection.
“Anyone with cuts or open sores on their feet or hands are not allowed to take the treatment.
“In addition, the garra rufa fish used by Appy Feet do not have teeth, and cannot piece skin.
“Therefore the transfer of fluids is not able to take place.”