The Food Safety Authority (FSAI) has suggested we're still a "long way away" from alternatives to plastic packaging hitting supermarket shelves.
It's hosting a conference looking at the role of plastic in the food sector.
There has been pressure on companies to switch to alternatives because of the damage plastic is causing to the environment.
Pamela Byrne, chief executive of the FSAI, said they need to make sure any new packaging is safe - a process which could take a number of years.
She explained: "Plastic is an important material that we have - the only alternatives at the moment we have is glass, and also metal.
"We also have paper - but paper in the context of food packaging materials also provides some challenges. So I think we're a long way away."
She added: "We need alternative packaging and plastic solutions which can still do what they need to do, but do not negatively impact the environment.
"That means research is needed into new plastic alternatives which will be complex and take time."
As well as preserving food, Dr Byrne pointed to a number of other important aspects of food packaging - including how it features details about the ingredients, allergens, shelf-life and origins of the food.
She also said packaging is 'vital' for officials when there's a food safety issue or product recall.
Meanwhile, Jack O'Sullivan - the director of Zero Waste Ireland - argued that society needs to take a "totally different view of plastics".
He said: "[We need to] either replace plastics entirely with other materials from renewable sources, or manufacture sparingly and efficiently for long-term use and total recycling.
"We have to live within the carrying capacity of planet earth, and completely eliminate fossil fuels from our ‘diet’. This requires no more production of the plastics we currently use, all of which are made from oil derivatives."