In a bid to get tough on obesity and the causes of obesity, the Blair administration in the UK is preparing to play hardball with ad agencies and food manufacturers over TV commercials.

As a general election approaches, the government health secretary John Reid has issued a summer deadline for a strict new code of practice on food ads. He has also rattled the sabre of legislation if these measures do not come up to scratch by 2007.

Media regulator Ofcom will consult with the industries on a toughened broadcasting regime, whilst a new food and drink advertising forum will strengthen existing codes on press and poster ads. The two new codes for broadcast and non-broadcast advertising are to be adopted early next year.

Meanwhile, the president of the Incorporated Society of British Advertisers, John Sunderland, warns any plans to press ahead with restrictions on food advertising will create a "dangerous implication" for other sectors.

Speaking at ISBA's annual conference, the chairman of confectionery-to-drinks giant Cadbury-Schweppes told delegates: "The threat to the future of advertising is greater than I can ever remember - and all the more dangerous because it springs from the best of motives."

He urges the industry to work "hard and quickly" together to ensure "our views are heard" in the battle between consumer brand companies and groups looking to blame advertising for obesity and binge drinking.

He says the public must be better informed about the benefits of advertising and adds: "Contrary to public opinion advertisers are not anxious to create a nation of drunken, bloated, unhappy debtors."

Data sourced from Brand Republic (UK) and Media Week (UK); additional content by WARC staff