RESIDENTS and businesses are backing a bid to make Halesworth the UK’s first gluten-free friendly town.

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Councillor and Halesworth resident Tony Goldson started the campaign after receiving a string of requests from constituents asking for help in tracking down gluten-free food.

A member of both Suffolk County Council and Waveney District Council, Mr Goldson said: “There are 600 coeliac sufferers and people with gluten and wheat intolerance in Halesworth alone and a few months ago they were saying it was virtually impossible to find gluten-free food or have a gluten-free meal out in Halesworth.

“It’s potentially very serious. If a sufferer accidentally ate food containing gluten they would get very chronic stomach pains and, like any allergy, it could kill.”

Mr Goldson has been well supported by businesses in the town including Anglia Co-operative foodstore, based on Saxons Way, and team from the food store offered him a helping hand.

“They put together a guide to gluten-free products and food. They are definitely ahead of the field,” Mr Goldson explained.

“From there I’ve got restaurants on board and a local fish and chip shop that produces gluten-free fish and chips once a month and his sales have really gone up. It’s really catching on.

“Every single shop that sells food in Halesworth is capable of dealing with gluten-free products. We could be the first gluten-free town in the country.”

The Bay Tree Bistro, based in the Thoroughfare, is one of the restaurants offering a selection of gluten-free meals, from soups and pastas to sandwiches and muffins.

Kim Hart, owner and chef, said: “This is a great initiative. I know how hard it is to go out somewhere and not be able to eat because of an allergy or intolerance so I think it is a good idea. It is a good reason for people to come to Halesworth.”

Proprietor of the Market Place Wine Shop, Alexander Carr, also stocks a gluten-free ale. Brewed by St Peter’s Brewery Co Ltd, at Saint Peter South Elmham, the beer has been stocked in the shop for over a year.

“We like to offer a variety. I think if we can get Halesworth’s name on the map it is a good thing.”

Mr Goldson added: “I want to show sufferers that there are gluten-free alternatives available in Halesworth and I want to show businesses that it can be good for them, too.”

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