Unhealthy food and alcohol advertising is the subject of a massive push by the federal government to be banned.

A report that appeared in The Australian suggests that even one the advertising industry’s most senior advocate says advertisers, agencies and the media have just six months to reduce the amount of advertising of unhealthy food or the government will do it for them.

Glen Wiggs, director of the Foundation for Advertising Research, anticipates that the findings of the Health Minister Nicola Roxons Preventative Health Taskforce (PHT), which is due this month to report on how the country should fight chronic diseases such as obesity and over-consumption of alcohol, will be thorough.

Health lobbyists are predicting the PHT will go further and recommend ad bans.

“My theory is it will come in and say we want the volume of advertising reduced. I think the likely outcome is that self-regulation will be given a chance but the industry will have to make substantial progress in six months. Theyll have to virtually complete the task in two years,” Wiggs said.

The Australian Association of National Advertisers (AANA) has welcomed the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Health and Ageing’s report, ‘Weighing it Up – Obesity in Australia’, and the report’s conclusions regarding the important role industry self-regulation can play.

“The Committee has recognised that Obesity is a multi-faceted issue requiring a whole of community response,” said Scott McClellan, CEO of AANA, “Advertisers have demonstrated their willingness to do their part by, among other things, only advertising healthier food choices to younger children.”

Australia was the first country to respond through implementation of the AANA Food and Beverages Advertising and Marketing Communications Code in 2008, which is administered by the Advertising Standards Bureau.

Advertising has an effect on food choice assessed by ACMA’s research review at between 0.5% and 2.0%, equating to a ‘modest direct effect’ on children’s food preferences.