British households are throwing away 4.2 million tonnes of food and drink a year, the equivalent of six meals every week, a study published on Thursday said.

Some £12.5 billion worth of food and drink was discarded in 2012, with the average British family wasting nearly £60 a month, according to the study from the Waste and Resources Action Programme (Wrap).

Fresh fruit and vegetables make up the largest proportion of avoidable waste, with bread and milk also commonly discarded.

The equivalent of 24 million slices of bread were thrown out last year, the government-funded body said.

The study said that factors contributing to the waste included unclear labelling and storage information, as well as consumers overestimating portions and buying more than they needed.

However, the figures represent a 21 percent reduction in food and drink waste since 2007 -- a decrease of 4.2 million tonnes which has saved consumers almost £13 billion a year.

But the report says the rate of decline has slowed in recent years and more needs to be done to tackle the problem.

Wrap chief executive Liz Goodwin called for avoidable household food waste to be cut by a further 1.7 million tonnes a year by 2025.

"Consumers are seriously worried about the cost of food and how it has increased over recent years. Yet as Wrap's research shows, we are still wasting millions of tonnes and billions of pounds," Goodwin said.

"The UK is leading the way in tackling food waste and the 21 percent cut is a terrific achievement by millions of people... However, there is so much more to go for and I believe we should be going for it."

Researchers from the recycling group analysed the food and drink waste of 1,800 consenting households and looked at waste data from 80 local authorities as part of the study.

Almost half the avoidable food and drink waste went straight from the cupboard or fridge to the bin, after it either went off or passed the best-before date on the packaging.

The findings come amid a political debate about the rising cost of living in Britain and as increasing numbers of people turn to food banks for emergency handouts.

Resource management minister Dan Rogerson said: "Cutting waste and driving business innovation will help to build a stronger economy.

"We will continue to work closely with food retailers and manufacturers to achieve this goal."