Food sales at Marks and Spencer jumped in the UK retailer’s fourth quarter, as the company said its “market-leading quality” meant it was unaffected by the horsemeat contamination saga.

M&S booked a 4% increase in like-for-like food sales in the UK for the 13 weeks to 30 March. The spike in sales represented faster growth than in the retailer’s third quarter, when food LFLs were up 0.3%.

“We delivered an excellent result in food, with performance well ahead of the market, as customers continued to trust us for provenance and quality,” M&S chief executive Marc Bolland said.

M&S, which is under pressure to revitalise its clothing sales, said it had now reported three years of rising food LFL sales. It added: “We are extremely proud of our long-term relationships with farmers and suppliers, which are based on trust, provenance and market leading quality at all times. As a result we were pleased to be unaffected by the recent issues affecting the food industry.”

The retailer’s food sales helped boost its total LFL sales in the UK, which increased 0.6%. General merchandise LFLs were down 3.8%, although the result was better than some analysts expected. Total UK sales increased 2.6%. Group sales, which includes M&S’s non-food focused international stores, were up 3.1%.

Shares in M&S had climbed 3.1% to 395.7p at 09:37 BST.

The company’s full-year results are set to be published on 21 May.

Click here to read analysts’ views of today’s results.