The research, commissioned by the European fresh produce association Freshfel, analysed the actual fruit content of a variety of fast-moving consumer goods sold in the leading supermarkets of nine European countries, including the UK.
All of the 207 products (in 23 food product groups) analysed used an image or a reference to fruit on their packaging.
The survey found that 18 per cent of those products contained no fruit at all, while the remaining 82 per cent had fruit in one form or more.
Half of all the products contained either no or minimal fruit - 32 per cent had lower than 10 per cent fruit content - despite the display of images or reference to fruit on their packages. Only 17 per cent of the products analysed had more than 50 per cent fruit content.
Freshfel food policy adviser Raquel Izquierdo de Santiago said: "The use of attractive images on packaging is a common tool employed to sell food products. This unmistakably leads consumers to believe that these products actually contain a substantial amount of the fruit product alluded to by the images or statements made on the packaging.
"In the new wave of health-conscious consumers, it has become more and more common to have references to fruit or see images of fresh fruit and vegetables depicted on all types of products."
She added that companies will soon have to stop using these references under the new EU regulation 1924/2006 on such nutrition and health claims. It states that the use of "pictorial, graphic or symbolic representations in any form, which states, suggests or implies that a food has particular characteristics", is now included in the EU's new stricter definition of a "health claim."
Freshfel's research showed that only 13.5 per cent of the products analysed would be "allowed" to carry images of fresh fruit on their packaging without being in breach of the EU requirements and misleading consumers.
Nigel Jenney, chief executive of the UK's Fresh Produce Consortium, said: "This research is quite damning about some of the spurious claims made about the fresh fruit content of some food, with almost one in five products analysed having no fruit content at all.
"If consumers want to be confident they are getting their five a day then we must encourage them to enjoy the wide range of fresh produce available."