A new survey by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) has found that 80 per cent of people wash their turkey before putting it in the oven, presumably because they believe this to increase food safety.
However, the FSA warns that bacteria from the raw bird can easily splash onto worktops and chopping boards during the washing process and that this can greatly heighten the risk of food poisoning.
Judith Hilton, the agency's head of microbiological safety, said: "There are still a couple of Christmas food safety clangers served up each year. Turkey washing seems to be the most common blunder.
"Remember, it's not possible to wash off the germs that cause food poisoning with water. They're killed by heat. By washing your raw turkey, you're actually more likely to spread the germs than get rid of them."
Women over the age of 45 are most likely to wash their turkey, and the survey also found that two per cent of people claim to have suffered food poisoning after Christmas dinner in the past five years.