Today’s news:

Lawmaker in Astoria calls for ‘fish pedicure’ ban

A state senator representing the Bronx wants to ban a procedure secretly practiced at city salons during which customers receive pedicures using fish to nibble on their toes and cited one Astoria establishment that has offered the treatment.

State Sen. Jeff Klein (D-Bronx) has introduced a bill that would ban “fish pedicures” at salons in New York state, arguing that the procedure is unsanitary for customers and inhumane for the hundreds of fish used in the treatment. The senator unveiled the legislation Monday outside Astoria’s Ritz Nail & Spa, where the pedicures have, at one point, been offered.

“It’s an unsavory and unsanitary practice,” Klein said. “You can’t sanitize fish. And this is cruel treatment of animals because they starve these fish.”

During the treatment, a customer would place her feet in a water-filled tank and hundreds of small fish, typically the toothless garra rufa or the toothed chin chin, nibble at the dead skin at their feet. There is currently no law prohibiting the practice in the state.

Klein said the Astoria salon, on 31st Street, is the only site where he knows the procedure has been offered. But he said he has been told the process has become a “trendy” but secret method in some Brooklyn and Manhattan salons.

Sun King, owner of Ritz Nail & Spa, admitted he had offered the treatment for about one year, but decided to discontinue the practice several months ago.

“I heard it was bad news and that it was unsanitary,” he said. “At the beginning, I did it a few times, but not anymore. It makes the foot a little softer and smoother.”

King said he had bought the fish, which he said are toothless, for the procedure from China and that he charged customers $50 for the treatment, which also included a regular pedicure. King’s salon has been licensed by the state.

Klein said the Chin Chin fish have small teeth that can draw blood and he was concerned blood leaking into a tank where other customers dip their feet could create a dangerous situation.

Under Klein’s bill, fish pedicures would become illegal in the state and violators would be fined $200 for their first infraction. A second violation could lead to a business owner being slapped with a misdemeanor.

Jack Bilello, district manager for New York’s State Department, said the state currently has 20 investigators looking into the potential dangers caused by the practice.

Ritz’s customers said they had never heard of the procedure and, as far as they knew, the salon was not still offering it.

“I’ve been coming here for a while and I’ve never seen them do it,” Whitestone doctor Cori Stern-Torres said.

Astoria’s Myra Morales, who was undergoing a manicure and pedicure at the salon, said she had neither heard of the procedure nor did she have any interest in trying it.

“It does not appeal to me,” she said.

Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e-mail at nduke@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.

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