In an urgent attempt to stem the rising tide of obesity among children in the UK, the Blair administration is proposing strict restrictions on ads for junk food.

The government is expected to reveal detailed plans later this week, among them a ruling that TV commercials for junk foods should not be shown before 9pm.

UK broadcast regulator Ofcom has reported that 70% of British youngsters' TV viewing is between 6pm and 9pm.

The government says advertisers have already cut the number of junk foods ads on TV, with almost 10,000 fewer aired in the past year compared with 2003.

The proposed ban would include products high in fat, salt or sugar. It would target certain breakfast cereals and even fish fingers as well as the usual suspects like burgers, potato chips and soft drinks.

Among other schemes to promote healthier lifestyles among the British populace is expected to be a voluntary 'traffic light' labelling system for food packaging.

A red light would signify fatty, salty or sugary foods, to be eaten sparingly. Amber would mean fatty but nutritious foods (cheese, for example) to be eaten in moderation, while a green light would indicate fruit and vegetables, to be eaten often.

Says Peter Hollins of the British Heart Foundation: "The key thing is not to compel people to do things but encourage them. We would also want to see something done about snack machines at school."

Data sourced from BBC Online; additional content by WARC staff