Social conversation at the dinner table, talking about our evening game drive from the Makweti Safari Lodge. Welgevonden Private Game Reserve 010510 Picture: Karen Sandison

London - Time was when the slightest brush of an elbow on the table during dinner would have been enough to raise eyebrows.

Now, though, it seems standards have slipped somewhat.

A study of dining habits has revealed the poor state of modern table manners.

It found that the majority of Britons no longer eat together as a family - and even when they do, many bring their mobile phone, laptop or games console with them.

Putting the knife and fork together when they have finished, and closing their mouths when they eat are also no longer seen as necessary by many, the research revealed.

The study of 2,000 adults found that four in ten would think nothing of using a smart phone to make calls, text or check emails while eating with the family.

Ten percent work on their laptop while eating, and 13 percent of families allow a mountain of toys - including games consoles - to rest next to the dinner plates.

More than half of the adults surveyed said they did not even bother cutting up their food properly, preferring to tear pieces off with their teeth, while 36 percent scoff all their food in a couple of minutes.

Four out of ten don’t wash their hands before dinner, the study found.

Emma Gray, spokesman for Birmingham Food Fest, which conducted the study, said: “Food is an important part of family life and dining together is a great way to spend quality time with loved ones, which should be an enjoyable experience for all. With family meal times becoming more and more rare, people should be making the most of the time they do have together - without the distractions of magazines, laptops and mobiles.” - Daily Mail