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Government Takes Important Action Against Ichthyological Threat to Floridian Toes

12:27 PM, Feb 24, 2009 • By MARY KATHARINE HAM
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The Florida state cosmetology authorities launched a preemptive strike on an imminent threat to the well-being of its citizens this week, outlawing the trendy "fish pedicure" despite the fact that it has yet to be offered anywhere in the state.

The procedure, popularized in Asia and introduced to the U.S. at a Virginia salon, allows customers to put their feet into a bowl of water filled with fish who eat away dead skin, as a supplement to the filing and sloughing of a traditional pedicure. Officials cited sanitation laws, saying it's impossible to sanitize live fish between customers, so the procedure is illegal.

Other reasons for the banning may include, "Hey, Washington did it, too!" And, what happened to the Peridot Salon and its owner Tuyet Bui when Washington banned the practice?

For the past three weeks, scores of customers descended upon a nail salon in Kent [Washington].

They came from Idaho and Ohio and Minnesota. The appointment book was booked solid two months out...

"Customers loved it," said the salon's owner, Tuyet Bui, who goes by Tweety.

Thursday, however, the Department of Licensing shut down Bui's, um, fishy operation, saying that the pedicures were illegal.

Bui said she spent $3,000 to import the 300 fish from China, which are a type of carp called "chin chin." She paid an additional $10,000 for a machine that would streamline the process...

Bui said she had to turn away eight customers by Thursday afternoon and would soon begin calling her customers, informing them of the ruling.

What about in Texas?

The co-owner of Zen Luxury Nail & Beauty Bar, located in the Dallas suburb of Frisco, said she was disappointed to learn she could no longer offer the service.

Now she's not sure what to do with the 500 guppy-like fish she bought for $2,500.

"I guess we will either keep them as pets, or send them back," she said.

And, in New Hampshire.

"It's heartbreaking," says Delores Nichols, director of spa services at the New Hampshire salon, "This was something we all were looking forward to doing. And we're hopeful that the fish pedicures will be back."

According to Nichols, only 20 people had tried the fish treatment before the state intervened.

She adds that Kim's Spa is now gathering testimony from scientists about the hygienic safety of chin chin pedicures. The salon intends to appeal the state's ban at the next cosmetology board meeting on Dec. 8.

That's at least three small businesses that lost out on an innovative service for customers, during a recession, thanks to the overzealous nanny state. In none of the stories about banning the fish pedicure is there any report of sickness caused by it. As far as I can tell, even women's magazines have yet to come up with hysterical headlines- "Fish Pedicure Horror! How a Guppy Lost Me My Guy!"- which means there is nary a trace of concern to exploit.

These are real people whose real livelihoods are being threatened by their governments' determination to protect customers from an as-yet non-existent and unlikely threat. And, unlike most of the people who find favor in Obama speeches and in the halls of Congress- Yes, I mean you, Big Three.- these people were providing a service that people actually wanted to buy.

The potential loss of business is pretty big, if you use Yvonne's Salon in Alexandria, Va. as your gauge. Its owner John Ho started the craze in 2008 by shipping in the guppy-like "chin-chin" fish to supplement pedicure service, and reported 5,000 takers in just the first few months. After Yvonne's unorthodox process got national coverage on daytime talk shows and women's magazines, demand went up across the nation. But here's the kicker. Guess why Ho started offering fish pedicures in the first place?

He said he wanted to come up with something unique while finding a replacement for pedicures that use razors to scrape off dead skin. The razors have fallen out of favor with state regulators because of concerns about whether they're sanitary.