THE Scottish fish and chip shop which entered the annals of culinary infamy by inventing the deep-fried Mars bar is set to launch a new health offensive aimed at helping to restore its slightly tarnished image.
The Carron Fish Bar in Stonehaven, which this year celebrates the 20th anniversary of the infamous calorie-laden treat, is to open its doors every Sunday specifically to cater for customers with gluten intolerance who could risk falling ill if they went for a fish supper at a normal Scottish chippie.
For two hours, only guaranteed gluten-free products will be offered at the popular chip shop, which attracts customers from across the globe seeking out the home of the calorie-busting batter-covered chocolate delicacy.
It means that the deep-fried Mars bar – which could potentially trigger an immune reaction in people suffering from coeliac disease – will be off the menu along with the normal pies, puddings and other popular fare normally available.
Lorraine Watson, who runs the fish and chip shop with her husband Charlie, said: “People who suffer from gluten intolerance can’t get fish and chips at the moment, and I just want to be able to help them do that on a Sunday afternoon.
“I want to show that when it comes to healthy eating the Carron can compete with the best. I am trying to get across to people that while there is the fun side of the chip shop with the deep-fried Mars bar, I want them to understand I am serious about my business and I have gone to a different level to what other people are doing.”
The fish and chip shop will serve up gluten-free fish suppers alongside chicken, pineapple fritters and onion rings.
Watson said: “Everything in the range will have to be stripped out and brand new fat will be put in before we even start.
“We will only be using gluten-free batter and other gluten-free products. We won’t, for example, be cooking sausages or burgers because they all have gluten in them already, as wheat or rye is used to bind these products together. We can’t sell anything with pastry, so pies will be off the menu as well.”
Dietician Lisa Holmes, based in Banchory, said the gluten-free fish suppers would appeal to Scots struggling with gluten intolerance.
“For the members of the population who are coeliacs or require a gluten-free diet, being able to have access to special treats and eat out in places such as a fish and chip shop is important, but the key word is moderation,” she said.
“It’s very limiting for people on that kind of diet, they struggle to eat out, so if you know that a place is offering something specifically gluten-free and there’s no risk, it’s incredibly useful. It opens up that option.”
Watson said the gluten-free batter used on the fish was slightly different in flavour from the batter the fish bar normally used. “It’s a different texture and much crispier,” she said. “And who knows, it might prove even more popular than our standard batter.”
Sarah Sleet, the chief executive of Coeliac UK, the national charity for people with coeliac disease, praised the Carron’s initiative.
She said: “We know that eating out safely is a top concern for people with coeliac disease, who must follow a strict gluten-free diet for life.
“We are working with the catering industry to help them deliver good-quality menu choices for people with coeliac disease and are delighted that fish and chip shops are also recognising the importance of catering for this market.”
Watson said the initiative was a considerable investment for the chip shop, but it would be worth it to help the one in 100 people in the population who are estimated to have gluten intolerance.
Gluten is a protein composite found in foods processed from wheat and related species, including barley and rye. It gives elasticity to dough, helping it to rise and keep its shape. It is found in many staple foods in the western diet.
Gluten intolerance is a spectrum of disorders, including coeliac disease and wheat allergy, in which gluten has an adverse effect on the body.
Symptoms include bloating, abdominal discomfort, pain or diarrhoea, headaches and migraines. Treatment for all conditions is a gluten-free diet, as even ingesting very small amounts of food containing gluten can damage health.