Healthy Eating

Stop peddling health foods, angry shoppers tell M&S

Marks & Spencer customers have written to complain about its efforts to make food healthier.

Adding fibre to white bread and removing sugary drinks from shops in hospitals provoked angry letters, Claire Hughes, head of nutrition at Marks & Spencer, said. Customers complained the changes had restricted their choice.

However, Ms Hughes promised to forge ahead, saying she expected that shops would eventually no longer have a “healthy eating” range and that most of the stock would be healthy with “indulgent” foods singled out instead.

At Public Health England’s annual conference this week, she said that Marks & Spencer planned a 20 per cent reduction in calories, sugar and fat across its food by 2019, a year before the target set by health chiefs. It would change the ingredients of some products, while others would change portion size to meet the benchmarks.

“We look at the calories, the salt and the sugar,” she said. “And also where we can add beneficial nutrients. So all our white bread — this was actually quite controversial — we increased the fibre amount to get to 3g so we could claim ‘a source of fibre’. I’ve never had so many customer contacts about that saying, ‘Why did you do that? You’ve taken away my choice by putting more fibre in my bread.’ I was surprised.”

Some foods were beyond attempts to make them healthier, she said. “We’re never going to have a healthy pie. You can have a healthier pie, but it might just be a smaller portion.”