Norwich spa speaks out after fish pedicure warnings

They are the aquatic answer to a traditional beauty treatment, but a well-publicised health warning over fish pedicures has left one young start-up entrepreneur fearing for the future of her business.

National newspapers, including the front page of a tabloid, were yesterday filled with warnings over the recent craze which has seen stores offer customers the chance to have the dead skin nibbled from their feet by tiny Garra Rufa fish.

This followed guidance issued by the Health Protection Agency which told of the need for such shops to carry out thorough check-ups on the feet of clients to ensure they had no cuts, grazes or skin infections that could risk the spread of diseases like HIV or Hepatits.

And it was upon shortly after reading the headlines that 24-year-old Laura Melhado, who runs Sole Sensations on St Stephens Road and another spa in Great Yarmouth, started getting calls.

She said: 'We've had a few calls in both stores and a few people asking about it, and I've seen people walking past the shop talking about it too.

'It's left me concerned about the future of the business because a lot of people are influenced by the media and if they see a headline saying treatment could spread hepatitis and HIV it doesn't matter what the rest of the story says.'

After years of working in call centres, Miss Melhado, of Belton, was inspired to get a bank loan and take the plunge with her first spa in Yarmouth a year ago after having a fish pedicure in Greece.

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The Health Protection Agency spoke of a 'very low' risk for healthy clients when spas adhere to appropriate hygene procedures. Popular in Asia, the pedicures have been banned in some US states over infection fears that might be caused by open wounds.

However, having spent around �60,000 on her businesses, Miss Melhado was keen to emphasise everything was done by the book.

'As well as the purchase of a �350 power steaming machine to ensure hygiene standards were as high as possible, she said they had recently been given the thumbs up by health and safety.

She warned people to check their local spas were up to scratch, adding: 'It's frustrating because I've invested a lot of money in setting this spa up.

'Everyone's feet are thoroughly examined and we clean them with a towel and mitts, so anyone with any kind of cut we have to tell them to come back when it's healed.'

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