Snack bars on sale in Australia are guilty of misleading shoppers over the level or quality of fruit that manufacturers claim are in their brands, according to the latest hard hitting report from Choice, the country's independent product review and testing organisation.

It put 224 snack bars through a testing analysis and found some of the biggest brands are in their words "tricking consumers" by showing images of real fruit on the packaging when, in reality, there is very little or any fruit actually in the product. Instead they are "loaded with added sugar and contain minimal actual fruit ingredients," said the Choice report.

"The fruit content of some products is farcical. If you're putting your kid's lunchbox together you'd be far better off with fresh fruit and some wholegrain crackers," said Tom Godfrey, Choice's head of media.

He added: "Unfortunately, when it comes to snack bars, relying on marketing messages and brand names in the supermarket is no recipe for finding real fruit in processed foods and can leave you drowning in a sea of added sugar."

It found that "fruit ingredients in snack bars often owe more to chemistry than agriculture".
 
The report singles out specific brands that it feels are over stepping the mark. Aldi's Hillcrest Chewy Muesli Bars Strawberry & Yoghurt, for example, shows fresh strawberries on its box but only actually contains "strawberry flavoured fruit pieces" made up of fruit puree concentrates, flavour and a range of additives.

Kellogg's K-Time Twists Raspberry and Apple claims to have "raspberry and apple fillings" but only includes raspberry juice concentrate and 2% of apple.

"K-Time Twists are packed with sugar, juice concentrate (a form of added sugar), apple powder, fructose (another added sugar), brown sugar (more added sugar), a range of thickeners and other additives. It's a stretch to depict actual fruit on-pack," added Godfrey.

Choice called on manufacturers to look seriously at the ingredients they are using and for there to be a requirement for food producers to state clearly on-pack the level of added sugars being used. Particularly, it said, in light of a recent report from the Australian Bureau of Statistics which found that more than half of Australians are exceeding recommendations around the daily intake of added sugars.

"There is currently no requirement in Australia for food companies to detail added sugars on packs. This makes it easier for the junk food giants to sweeten the truth with their dodgy 'health halos' on pack.

"It's time added sugars were listed on nutritional panels and different kinds of added sugars clearly identified in the ingredients list to help consumers navigate around the junk food industry's marketing trickery."

Godfrey added: "It's little wonder we're consuming too much added sugar when you consider our review found brands using healthy-sounding product names such as Go Natural and All Natural along with references to fruit and yoghurt in a bid to trick you into thinking you're making a healthier choice."