Junk food advertising on television before 9pm could be banned if tomorrow’s public health White Paper allows proposals to be passed.

Ministers will tomorrow order television companies to develop a new set of rules to stop children being bombarded with messages about unhealthy food or drink, or they will face an outright ban.

Ofcom, the broadcasting regular, will negotiate a new agreement which will affect all advertising that takes place between the hours after school until 9pm.

Newspaper reports also suggest that John Reid, the health secretary, will propose food labelling such as a traffic-light system to distinguish foods that will be considered to be ‘unhealthy’.

With no agreed definition on what ‘junk food’ is there has been continued scepticism about the implementation of a traffic-light labelling system, which has been evident from the recent feedback to The Grocer’s Junk the Spin campaign on the food and health debate.

The Food Standards Agency has issued guidelines on the levels of salt, fat and sugar that are considered good for a child’s health but determining which foods should be labelled green for healthy compared to red, for unhealthy, is likely to trigger considerable debate within the industry.

Many food and drink producers have already been cutting back on television advertising. Research by Nielson Media Research counted 34,703 advertisements for junk food in the past year compared to 44,336 the previous year.