EDITORIAL - Food manipulators are like terrorists

(The Freeman) - July 11, 2014 - 3:09am

The recent raids on warehouses in Luzon, where it was discovered that commercial rice in the market can be adulterated by a mixture of inferior ingredients -- some even good only for animal consumption -- is the best proof of manipulation by unscrupulous traders.

Manipulation can happen in a lot of ways to a lot of products. In the case of rice, the commodity can be hoarded to reduce supply and jack up prices. When government reacts, as when it ordered a crackdown against hoarders, a quick switch can be made to other modus operandi.

This is probably what happened in the case of the adulterated rice. When things became too hot after the government went after hoarders, the unscrupulous traders shifted from jacking up prices to undercutting on the production cost.

Switching half-a-kilo of premium rice from a 50-kilo sack with animal feed may not seem substantial or significant until you realize you are not talking of one sack but a whole warehouse filled to the rafters with tens of thousands of sacks.

Such a crime does not only involve unfair trade practice or economic sabotage. It can also involve reckless endangerment of human health. With that in mind, the government should not go easy on the culprits, if for no other reason that they show no compunction if people fall ill or, worse, die.

Food supply is a matter of national security. It must be treated with utmost seriousness and with the greatest urgency. Anyone who tampers with a national security issue cannot be left off the hook with a mere slap on the wrist.

These unscrupulous businessmen are no better than terrorists and must be treated as such. Before they were caught and unmasked in the series of raids, they mingled with the rest of us, like wolves in sheep's clothing, scalawags of deception who feed on our unsuspecting innocence.

The government must not stop with rice traders. They must go after all manipulators of essential products. There is no greater criminal than that which preys on the basic human necessities for life. There is no more loathsome way to make a living.

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