Sainsbury’s is being taken to court for using excessive packaging,  making it the first major retailer to be prosecuted under environmental laws.

The grocer’s Taste the Difference beef roasting joint is under scrutiny, with trading standards officers claiming that it breached 2003 regulations, which prohibit the use of excess packaging.

Sainsbury’s is the first supermarket to face such charges, which were brought by trading standard officers in Lincolnshire. They were alerted by a member of the public.

The meat is packaged in plastic shrink wrap, and then placed inside a plastic tray, before being covered with a plastic lid and surrounded with a cardboard sleeve.

Until now, just five cases have been brought under the legislation, and all were against very small companies.

Sainsbury’s said it is “surprised” at the action. It said the packaging of the meat joint had been reduced by 53% since February.

Separately, the retailer has revealed that it will start selling cereal in more environmentally-friendly bags, as opposed to cardboard boxes.