Increasing numbers of SAR people are being struck down by food poisoning but official action against the alleged perpetrators is on the decline, according to government statistics. Health Department figures show 2,707 people suffered food poisoning in 2001, up from 2,452 in 2000. Most of last year's cases - 1,963 - were attributed to bacteria, and the majority - 1,553 - occurred in restaurants, with only 687 instances in the home. But according to Food and Environmental Hygiene Department statistics, prosecutions against unlicensed premises fell by 43 per cent, from 4,911 in 2000 to 2,818 last year. Charges against licensed premises dropped by 20 per cent, from 5,494 in 2000 to 4,411 last year. Restaurateur and Lan Kwai Fong Association chairman Richard Feldman criticised inspectors for focusing heavily on whether a restaurant conformed to its original layout plans - submitted to the Government as part of its application for a licence - instead of examining hygiene standards. 'Although these are important, because they impact on escape in event of a fire and the type of licence that is granted, the problem is that there is very little done for education or to focus on hygiene,' he said. 'They should be inspecting inside the fridge rather than where the fridge is located.' He claimed he had never once seen or heard of a government inspector using a thermometer to check the correct temperature of food or fridges - vital in keeping dangerous bacteria at bay. And inspectors also did not check where raw and cooked foods were stored, and how they were prepared, in order to prevent cross-contamination, he said. Hong Kong Medical Association president and medical profession legislator Dr Lo Wing-lok said the number of food-poisoning cases was probably much higher because most doctors did not report incidents. He said food poisoning had been one of the most common notifiable infectious diseases for many years because locals liked to eat under-cooked food, making control and regulation difficult. A Food and Environmental Hygiene Department spokeswoman defended the inspections, saying the number of prosecutions had most likely dropped because establishments had complied with regulations or warnings given by officers. But Legislative Council food safety and environmental hygiene panel member David Chu Yu-lin said the argument did not make sense because food poisoning incidents had risen consistently.