Please Mars, just tell me!

“You can’t eat them.”


“You can’t eat them.”

“Why the fuck not, they’re only M&M’s.”

“They’re not suitable for vegetarians.”

“Oh yeah, peanut M&M’s, chocolate, peanuts, horse lips, says it right there on the ingredients list.”

The conversation didn’t quite go like that but as it turns out peanut M&M’s aren’t suitable for vegetarians, possibly to do with animal rennet used in the production of the whey…

So I thought, what else can’t I eat, sometimes it’s confusing and annoying having to read through all of the ingredients and make a choice. What if there’s nothing obvious in the ingredients that would point to it not being suitable for vegetarians? So I’ve found myself more and more just avoiding anything that doesn’t say it’s suitable.

I had a look on the Mars Nutrition website, it helpfully lists nutritional information and the ingredients of products, but nothing about suitability for vegetarians.

Contact Us“, yes please! So I did.

Hi, do you have an up to date list of your confectionery products that are NOT suitable for vegetarians?

It would be very helpful if you also labelled your products that weren’t suitable for vegetarians.



A week or so went by and then today I got a reply from the very helpful Paula Ricketts who works on the Consumer Care Team at Mars…

Dear Richard

Thank you for contacting us about a list of products that are not suitable for vegetarians.

Unfortunately, we’re not currently able to confirm the suitability of individual products or provide you with a list.

Once again, thank you for contacting Mars.

Yours sincerely

Paula Ricketts
Consumer Care Team
0845 045 0042

So, I’m sat open mouthed, do they not know, is it a closely guarded secret? Tap, tap, tap I composed my reply…

Thank you Paula, for your in depth and expedient reply.

I am however a little confused with your reply, do you not know which products are suitable for vegetarians or do you just not want to tell me?

I look forward to your reply!

Kind regards,

So, only time will tell if Mars will admit to not knowing, not wanting to tell me or just not being bothered!

Incidentally, Cadbury have a very helpful website which lists everything you need to know about their products, if they’re vegetarian, vegan, kosher, etc. Have a look!

UPDATE – 2/11/11

I got another reply from Mars…

At Mars, we’re always trying to provide our consumers with the biggest choice possible of chocolate products. We’re making great progress in making sure our products are suitable for vegetarians where possible.

Unfortunately, we’re not currently able to confirm the suitability of individual products or provide you with a list, but most of products are suitable and have ‘Suitable for vegetarians’ on the back of the pack. This labelling ensures that these products are in line with the FSA’s guidance on vegetarian labelling.

As always, our advice would be to make sure you check the packaging so you can guarantee the suitability for your diet. If the product does NOT say ‘Suitable for vegetarians’, we would suggest that you avoid it.

I can only guess that sometimes they have to make changes to the way they manufacture their products. Sometimes they can do it without using ingredients dirrived from animals, sometimes they can’t and they have to change the label based on this.

It’s a shame that the FSA doesn’t issue very useful guidelines on this, wouldn’t it be easier for everything to just state the suitability either way instead of the consumer having to guess or go without because there just isn’t a simple label. I noticed that on the label for some Divine chocolate I was looking at it didn’t say it was suitable for vegeterians but later when I checked on their website it said it was, but they missed the sale.

No meat, no meal?

I suppose I’m a bit of a pretentious fucker when it comes to food, I’ve always found comfort in food, from reading about it, to preparing it, to eating it. I’ve been lucky enough to try all sorts of different things, I’ve been lucky enough to travel the world and eat in some amazing places, even if sometimes things got lost in translation and “Pork” turned out to be “Dog”, but that’s another story for another blog post…

In the last few years I’ve taken more of an interest in food provenance, trying to buy meat that is locally reared and well looked after or using seasonal ingredients instead of whatever we can import for convenience. I’ve Tweeted about my problem with Marks & Spencer (and I’m sure others) selling potatoes imported from Israel, the last time I checked we could grow potatoes just fine in the UK.

I digress, so, anyway we have a few friends who are vegetarian, we’ve shared food and we’ve been introduced to new things by them. After embarking on my mammoth 1000 mile cycling journey this year and changing what I eat completely we began talking about trying out a vegetarian diet for a month and the idea of “Veggie August” was born.

I’d already cut out a lot of meat from my diet and my wife and I mainly eat chicken when we do have meat, but I adore game and seafood and I head straight to that part of the menu whenever I can. I’ve always felt like I’m full of energy even after riding my 60 miles a week but our vegetarian friends rave about how good they feel just from having moved to a more natural and let’s be honest, ethical way of eating.

So, yesterday was the start of Veggie August, we’re foregoing meat for a month and seeing how we feel. I generally do the cooking at home and for a while have done a mix of meat and veggie food anyway so moving over to vegetarian shouldn’t be too much trouble. I’ve stolen recipes from The Waiting Room, an amazing local vegetarian restaurant and I’ve been pointed in the direction of Becka Eats, a great blog about veggie and vegan food.

So for day 1, we went with Lentil Shepherd’s Pie with Sweet Potato Mash, a recipe from Becka’s blog but changed slightly from vegan to veggie purely for convenience! I’m going to add the recipes for what I cook in August to the blog and share how the month is going…


From Paris to Warsaw…

Well it could have been from Paris to Warsaw, it certainly didn’t feel like it. At the beginning of 2011 I kind of made a resolution to cycle more, it all started in 2010 after getting a bike through the cycle2work scheme.

I’m lazy, very lazy, if I can do something without putting much effort in I will. Cycling seemed like the perfect thing to do coupled with the fact I could get a cheap bike through work. I could take it as easy as I wanted or push myself as hard as I could bother so that’s what I started to do. I also wanted to not be as much of a fat bastard, I got married in the middle of 2010, I knew I was overweight but didn’t do anything about it, when I saw our wedding pictures I realised that I was actually 18 stone and had to do something.

I started to ride on a weekend with my friend Dan Traynor, we rode from Nunthorpe to Guisborough and up through the forrest. We’d go up and over the moors or stay in the forrest and do some trails, 15-20 miles broke me into cycling gently. I started to ride to and from work occasionally, changed my diet and the excess weight started to come off.

I set myself a target of doing 1000 miles in 2011, it seemed easily reachable and I could spread it out over 12 months. At the time we lived 2.5 miles away from where I work, so 5 miles a day would take me to around 1000 and I could even have a few days off the bike if I wanted. My route took me down some quiet roads and through Middlesbrough’s Albert Park, it was a nice way to start the day instead of being stuck in traffic, or if you look at it another way, being traffic.

In April we moved from Middlesbrough to Ingleby Barwick putting my daily ride up to 12 miles, 240 miles a month if I cycle every day. I started to think that 240 miles a month is almost a tank of petrol that was costing me close to £70, on top of that I was paying £20 a month to get access to a car park at work which I was using less and less.

Teesside University have done a lot to help the uptake of sustainable tansport with staff, as well as taking part in the cycle2work scheme they provide secure storage for bikes, lockers, showers and places to change. They’ve even had electric car charging points installed in their main carpark. Along with the Middlesbrough Cycle Centre that Middlesbrough Council run, Middlesbrough seems to now be very accessible to people wanting to arrive by alternative means.

So, I’ve done my 1000 miles, what do I do now? I could easily up the target, 2011 miles in 2011? I’ve lost almost 4 stone in weight, I’m very close to 14 stone.

I’ve met some good people on the way and changed the way I think about transport, food and life. I’ve taken some falls, I think I broke a rib or two but I’m a stubborn bastard and wouldn’t get it seen to.

Gerry McBride who I stumbled upon on Twitter has set up Don’t drive on the 5, a website to “encourage as many people as possible to leave their cars at home on the 5th day of each month, and consider using alternative means of transport to get about.”.

Neal Harper who also works at Teesside University does the same as me and comes by bike, even after taking a fairly major fall and being out of action for a while. Gerry and Neal recently cycled coast to coast with some others, something I’d definitely think about doing now I know I’ve got the legs for it!

So far this year I’ve spent 80 hours cycling, burnt over 75000 calories and as Andrew Marsh nicely put it “climbed the equivalent of nearly 12 Empire State Buildings in elevation gain”.

The old and new me.