The US Government is being urged to jettison rules that ban states from using federal money to discourage soft drinks consumption, a health advocacy group has said.

Rules adopted during the Bush administration prohibit the use of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program funds for disparaging or criticising any food, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) said late last week.

It is urging the US Deparment of Agriculture to repeal the ban.

"Soft drinks are the only food or beverage directly linked to obesity," said CSPI legal affairs director Bruce Silverglade. "Yet under the Bush Administration, USDA gagged state health officials and blocked important nutrition education efforts. We hope the Obama administration will quickly reverse course and instead actively support state campaigns aimed at reducing soda consumption and obesity."

In 2008, USDA told California officials the state could not use federal funds to run a "soda-free summer" campaign. To obtain funding, California had to change the campaign motto to the milder "rethink your drink," according to CSPI.