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Health and Nutrition

M&S Health & Nutrition



What are additives?

Food additives carry out a variety of necessary functions, from helping to maintain quality to keeping food safe.

They're very carefully regulated and undergo thorough testing to make they are safe to use in food. Once a food additive has passed safety tests and been approved for use by the European Union, it's given an E number. Approved additives are closely reviewed in light of any new scientific data that may bring its safety into question.

Not all additives are 'artificial' - some are natural products that can have a useful function in food, for example, ascorbic acid E300 (vitamin C).

Additives used to keep food fresh and safe by helping to prevent deterioration:

antioxidants - help prevent oxidation of foods resulting in them 'going off' or discolouring. These are commonly used in baked foods, cereals, fats, oils and salad dressings. A commonly used antioxidant is ascorbic acid, E300 (vitamin C).

preservatives - help to keep food 'safe' by limiting the growth of micro-organisms (e.g. bacteria, yeast or mould) that can cause food poisoning. They can be in any food. An example is sulphur dioxide (E220) which is commonly used on dried fruits.

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Additives used to help improve the texture, flavour or appearance of foods:

emulsifiers and stabilisers - help prevent the ingredients from separating in many foods such as margarine and low fat spreads. They are used in any recipe that requires the mixing of ingredients that don't usually mix i.e. oil and water. These are commonly found in reduced fat and low fat versions of foods. An example is lecithin (E322).

thickeners - help change the consistency of the product. An example is pectin (E440) which is used to thicken jam.

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sweeteners - lower in calories than sugar and can be used as an alternative to sweeten foods. They are often found in low calorie foods. Intense sweeteners such as sucralose (E955) only need to be used in very small quantities as they're much sweeter than sugar. Bulk sweeteners such as sorbitol (E420) are used in similar amounts as sugar but they provide fewer calories.

flavour enhancers - used to bring out and enhance the flavours in foods. They are commonly used in savoury and oriental products. An example is monosodium glutamate (msg) E621.

colours - used to add or restore colour that can be lost through processing, to make the food look more appealing. They're also used for visual decoration e.g. on cakes and confectionery. An example is caramel (E150a), which can be used in products such as gravy and soft drinks.

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How we can help…

We know that our customers prefer to avoid the use of additives, so it's our policy to minimise the use of food additives wherever we can, across our entire range of foods - and to use natural additives wherever possible.

We do not use any artificial colours of flavours in any of our food and drink products. There are a number of other food additives which are not permitted in our foods. These include monosodium glutamate (msg), cyclamates and tartrazine and over half of the additives permitted by the EU - particularly those associated with concerns about food intolerance and children's diets e.g. Ponceau 4R, Sunset Yellow and Carmosine.

All our Kids meals contain no artificial colours, flavours, sweeteners or added preservatives. We only allow a very small number of additives in these foods all of which have been endorsed by the Hyperactive Children's Support Group.

All of our healthy Eat Well foods and drinks contain no artificial colours, flavours or sweeteners.