Marks and Spencer is to become the first UK retailer to add vitamin D to all its packaged bread and bread rolls. The firm says two slices of its bread will provide a minimum of 15% of the daily requirement of the vitamin, which helps to keep bones and teeth healthy. The M&S range will contain yeast that has been exposed to UV light, naturally raising the vitamin D content. Vitamin D is mostly obtained from the action of sunlight on skin but natural sources include oily fish and eggs.

At present it is generally only added to breakfast cereals, margarine and some yogurts and drinks. M&S says a survey of 2,476 of its customers suggested they were concerned about not getting their recommended daily amount of vitamin, with 78% saying they would welcome the enrichment of products. The range will start to be sold from next week.

Medical experts have recently expressed concerns about a rise in rickets cases in children in the UK, because of vitamin D deficiency. Studies have also indicated vitamin D, which helps to regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body, can protect people against cancer, Alzheimer’s and osteoporosis. The NHS advisory body, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), said last year that more people should be given vitamin D tablets to counter a hidden epidemic of deficiency in England.

The chief medical officer in England also urged doctors to prescribe tablets to those most at risk of having low levels of the vitamin, and similar advice was issued in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. M&S’s move has the backing of the National Osteoporosis Society, whose chief executive Claire Severgnini said: “Vitamin D is a vital nutrient that sadly many people are lacking. “Safe sun exposure is an excellent way of obtaining natural vitamin D, however levels can be topped up through diet.”

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