Marks & Spencer has announced its five year business-wide GBP200m (US$393.1m) "eco-plan", called Plan A, which includes action to make its food offering more healthy.

The company will opt for the Food Standards Agency Traffic Lights and Guideline Daily Allowance (GDA) product labelling.

It is also planning remove hydrogenated vegetable oils (HVOs) from all food and artificial colours, flavours and all unnecessary preservatives from all fresh prepared food.

It has also vowed to introduce 1,500 "Healthy Eating Assistants" to stores in the UK and extend the same training, developed in collaboration with the British Nutrition Foundation, to all staff in food halls within three years.

By 2012, M&S is aiming to increase the amount of "Eat Well" nutritionally balanced food it sells from 30% to 50% of food sales, and to replace artificial colours with natural colours in kids' sweets and cakes within 12 months.

The UK food and apparel retailer, which earlier this month reported an increase in like-for-like revenue despite disappointing food sales, said that as part of the plan it would become carbon neutral, send no waste to landfill, extend sustainable sourcing, set new standards in ethical trading and help customers and employees live a healthier lifestyle.

M&S chief executive Stuart Rose said: "Every business and individual needs to do their bit to tackle the enormous challenges of climate change and waste. While M&S will continue to sell great quality, stylish and innovative products, our customers, employees and shareholders now expect us to take bold steps and do business differently and responsibly. We believe a responsible business can be a profitable business. We are calling this "Plan A" because there is no 'plan B'."

The company also intends to label the food it imports by air, reducing its use of packaging by 25%, cutting its use of carrier bags by 33%, and making all plastic bags from recycled plastic.

"We will also help our suppliers and customers to change their behaviour. Because we are own-brand our influence extends to over 2,000 factories, 10,000 farms and 250,000 workers, as well as millions of customers visiting over 500 stores in the UK," Rose added.