x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

The end of a spa fish tale

Citing health issues, the Abu Dhabi Municipality has banned pedicures that use garra rufa fish.

A great source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids, rich in iron and a food considered dense in vitamin B12, fish should be the centrepiece of a nutritious diet.

But when a garra rufa fish is tasked to nibble on your feet and eat away at dead skin, there's a good chance that these particular fish will be doing more harm than good.

Once touted as the latest in beauty treatments and increasingly popular in the UAE, fish pedicures have officially been banned by the Abu Dhabi Municipality, according to statements released last week. Khalifa Mohammed Al Rumaithi, the municipality's director of public health, described the treatment as "unsanitary and [a transmitter of] deadly diseases like HIV".

Health agencies worldwide are now saying that the tanks filled with fish, where patrons dunk their feet, can be rife with infectious diseases, which travel from person to person through open wounds. Already, 14 states in the US have banned the practice of using "doctor fish" to beautify their customers' feet, including Texas and Florida, partly because the use of live animals in cosmetology is illegal.

But mostly, however, it's because - understandably - having the dead skin of one's feet pecked off by tiny, hungry fish is not exactly the most sanitary of procedures.