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M&S puts organic food back in shops

MARKS & Spencer, which stopped selling organic fruit and vegetables five years ago, is bringing it back in response to customer demand, it was announced yesterday.

Initially, only seven products, all sourced from overseas, will be available, restricted to stores around London. But the chain said that t was looking to expand the range and outlets, and to encourage more British farmers to go organic to meet demand.

M&S said that it would be holding an information day for its suppliers in the United Kingdom to discuss getting home-produced organic supplies. It takes two to three years for farms to become accredited as organic following the removal of chemicals and pesticides. Eighty per cent of organic food now sold in Britain is imported.

The launch products will include four golden apples for pounds 1.99, four tomatoes for pounds 1.69 and a red pepper for pounds 1.29. The other lines are red apples, avocados, baby tomatoes and potatoes. The store said it also hoped to include organic beef, pork and lamb.

The Soil Association, which sets the standards for organic farming in the UK, welcomed the initiative. Patrick Holden, its director, said: "We are delighted that, as one of the UK's leading retailers, Marks & Spencer is offering its customers organic fruit and vegetables and we look forward to seeing more M&S produce being grown by organic suppliers."