Under-packaging is "ten times worse" than over-packaging a product claims the EU's industry association, in response to claims made earlier this week that manufacturers need to use more recyclable materials.
"Supermarkets and their suppliers are reducing packaging but, more importantly they are making sure they use enough packaging to help stop food waste which is a much bigger problem," Europen said in a statement released to FoodProductionDaily.com.
The organisation was responding to the release of a study by UK local governments this week and indicates the difficulties of meeting the many and sometimes conflicting environmental demands being placed on industry.
The Local Government Assocation claimed that the study showed that 40 per cent of UK food packaging cannot be recycled and called on manufacturers and retailers to do more.
EU-wide recycling regulations set targets for each member country, whose governments must then reach those rates over a set number of years. In the UK, the responsibility has devolved to local councils.
However Europen points out that food waste levels are "shocking but no-one is doing more to reduce them than the packaging industry".
About six million tonnes of food goes to waste each year from households, Europen stated.
"Good packaging helps prevent this by keeping food fresh for longer and by helping us buy food in portion sizes that suit our needs," the organisation stated.
The LGA survey found that 5 per cent of the weight of an average UK shopping basket is made up of packaging.
But weight isn't the only measure of environmental impact, the organisation countered, noting that the carbon footprint is also important.
So too is using recycled content, which means the packaging needs to be heavier to do the same job, Europen stated.
"Perhaps surprisingly, some packaging has to weigh more than its contents or it couldn't do its job," Europen stated.
For example champagne needs to be packed in a bottle that is 95 per cent of the total weight or it would not survive the journey from the vineyard to home, or contain bubbles.
On the other hand, some packaging is much lighter - butter wrapping is only 1 per cent of the product.
Jane Bickerstaffe, director of related packaging organisation Incpen said that damaged or spoiled products due to inadequate packaging, means all the energy and materials that went into their manufactur is lost.
"It's a shame that the LGA's survey did not follow on and look at how much food arrived home in good condition and how much ended up as waste," he stated. "After all the whole point of packaging is to make sure the food is safe and wholesome all the way through to when it's consumed."
He also said the LGA should have explained that "packaging saved far more waste than it generated".
"It should also have explained that recycling has its own environmental impact because energy and materials are used to collect, sort and clean the items for recycling," he stated. "There is always going to be some packaging and other waste that shouldn't be recycled because it will have a negative environmental impact."
Of the total energy used in the food chain, 50 per cent is used in food production, 10 per cent on transport to the shops and retailing, 10 per cent to make the packaging and the remaining 30 per cent is used by shoppers to drive to the shops and store and cook food, Europen estimates.
The UK uses less packaging per person than most EU countries - 171 kg per capita in 2004 compared with 188 kg for Germany, 198 kg for the Netherlands and 200 kg for France, according to EU Commission data.
The amount of packaging used in the UK has increased by about 4 per cent since 1999, to 8.8m tonnes in 2004 from 8.5m tonnes.
"This increase is more than accounted for by factors outside industry's control such as the increase in population and demographic shift to more people living alone," Europen stated.