Two thirds of fruit snacks seen as healthy choices contain as much sugar as an iced doughnut, a study found.
More than half have more sugar per 100g than Haribo Starmix sweets.
According to research by Action on Sugar (AoS), Tesco’s Apple & Sultana Bars and Asda’s Yogurt Coated Cranberries were among the worst and found to contain about four teaspoons of sugar per serving.
The campaign group’s analysis of 56 types of fruit-based snacks, many aimed at children, found they all merited a red label for high sugar content in the traffic-light warning system used on food packaging.
The study found while processed dried fruit products were marketed as “healthy snacks” because of their high fruit content, the sugars in them were categorised by Public Health England as “free sugars”.
This means they contain purees, concentrates, juices or added sugar through a coating or flavouring.
AoS found Whitworths Sunny Dunked Yogurt Coated Raisins had 4.6 teaspoons per 25g serving, Asda’s Yogurt Coated Strawberry Fruity Bits Snack Bags had 3.8 teaspoons of sugar per serving and The Fruit Factory Strawberry, Apple, Orange Fruit Stars 3.1. Fruit Bowl Juicy Yoghurt Raisins had 4.
It is now calling for “honest labelling” of fruit-based snacks with a ban on “misleading claims” such as “one of your five a day”.
Holly Gabriel, AoS nutritionist, said: “Children should be encouraged to snack on whole fruits and vegetables and not excessively sweet products.”
Campaign director Katharine Jenner said: “The message to food manufacturers is quite simple – stop tricking parents.”
The Food and Drink Federation said products had nutrition information on their labels. Tim Rycroft, FDF CEO, said: “Products made of pureed fruit will contain sugar as sugar naturally occurs in fruit.
“All nutrition labelling information can only use adult reference intakes. There are no children’s reference intakes defined by law.”
Tesco said packaging was designed to clearly display the sugar content.