Parents should think twice before packing some snack bars into school lunchboxes with inaccurate packaging masking the sugary truth, consumer advocacy group Choice says.
A review of 224 cereal, muesli, nut, seed and raw snack bars found a number of products are loaded with added sugars but reference "natural" ingredients and display fruit on their packaging to apparently hoodwink buyers.
Choice's Tom Godfrey says the real fruit content in some snack bars was "farcical", with manufacturers often using purees and concentrates to masquerade as real fruit content.
"All of these references create a health halo and are designed by the food manufacturers to trick you into thinking you are making a healthy choice," Mr Godfrey told AAP.
"A time-poor parent may well be relying on that."
The review found Kellogg's Raspberry & Apple K-Time Twists contain just four per cent raspberry juice concentrate and no raspberry whole fruit, while Aldi's Hillcrest Strawberry & Yoghurt Chewy Muesli Bars have strawberries on the packaging but include "flavoured fruit pieces" made of concentrates and additives.
"Their products owe more to chemistry than they do to agriculture," Mr Godfrey said.
"If you rely on the brand positioning, the marketing and the advertising on packs, you are going to be led astray."
At present, manufacturers can choose whether to list added sugars separate to natural sugars.
Choice are pushing for added sugars to be listed on all nutritional panels and Health Star Ratings to be visible on products.
Of the 224 products reviewed, those with the highest Health Star Rating of five were Emma & Tom's Chia Bar Cacao, Emma & Tom's Chia Bar Cinnamon and Soma Bite Goji & Chia.
WHAT SHOPPERS SHOULD LOOK FOR
- A short ingredients list with a high fruit percentage
- Whole fruit rather than purees or concentrates
- A Health Star Rating of 5, or close to
- No more than 600 kilojoules a serve
- No added sugars or salts