Asda, the UK unit of Wal-Mart, has said that it will remove all artificial colourings and flavourings from its own-label food and drink products by the end of the year.

The supermarket group claimed today (15 May) that its "no nasties" guarantee is the first of its kind to be adopted by a UK retailer.

Under the pledge, none of the supermarket's 9,000 own label food and soft drink products will contain any artificial colours or flavours, aspartame, hydrogenated fat or flavour enhancers, such as monosodium glutamate.

Moreover, all Asda branded products will meet or exceed the Food Standard Agency's salt targets, the group insisted. Asda said it has invested more than GBP30m (US$59.31m) in reformulating its products.

Darren Blackhurst, ASDA's food trading director, said: "We know that our customers, particularly those that are mums and dads, are becoming more and more concerned about what's in the food that they buy.  

"We want to make life easier and healthier for them and their families by stripping out the 'nasties' from all our own label food and soft drinks, so they can have complete confidence that no colours or flavours are being used that aren't needed, and, where they are, they're 100% natural. In the vast majority of cases, we'll be able to achieve this without any impact on the taste of our products."

Meanwhile, Asda said today that first quarter sales were up in the "low double digits".