Junk-food advertisements will be banned during television programmes aimed at children, it was claimed last night.

John Reid, Health Secretary, is said to favour banning ads for burgers, crisps, fizzy drinks and sweets which contribute to children getting fat.

"We are aware that an outright ban is the nuclear option, but it's one we have got to take," an aide to Mr Reid was quoted as saying in today's Sunday Telegraph.

A White Paper on health, expected in the autumn, is likely to draw a distinction between government policy for adults and children. Ministers want to avoid being seen to tell grown-ups how to conduct their lives, but may choose to come down hard on the food industry if it is thought to be encouraging bad eating habits in children.

If Mr Reid wants a ban on television advertising, he may have a struggle convincing his fellow Cabinet minister, the Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell, who has vigorously defended Cadburys, the chocolate maker, for running a promotion aimed at school children.

Peter Hain, the leader of the Commons, had criticised the Cadburys "wrappers for sports equipment" promotion as being "entirely indefensible". But in an interview with GMTV's Sunday programme, broadcast this morning, Mrs Jowell said: "I don't agree with him."

She added: "Cadburys were going to do this anyway. There was some good to be gained from it - equipment for children in schools - but Cadburys have also had a long record of sponsorship for sport. After all its not so much that children are getting fatter because they are eating significantly more, they're getting fatter because they're taking much less exercise."

Mrs Jowell told The Independent on Sunday: "The food industry is on probation. It is part of the problem undoubtedly, but it can also be part of the solution."

But she also expressed reservations about what she called "cosmetic" solutions to the problem of obesity.