Parmigiano-Reggiano heists have been keeping cops in Modena, Italy, quite busy in recent years.
On Monday, police there arrested 10 people suspected of lifting 168 wheels of the region’s prized cheese, plus 16,000 bottles of wine since 2015. The sting was aptly named Operation Wine and Cheese, and authorities estimate the loot’s total value at $250,000. This bust comes nearly two years after a group of 11 crooks were arrested in Modena for stealing $875,000 worth of Parmigiano-Reggiano.
Sadly, cheese robberies are more common than you might think. In fact, curds are the world’s most stolen food, according to a 2011 study by the Centre for Retail Research. Whether crooks are taking off with tons of Comté, or even swiping 57 blocks of cheese from a Walmart, criminals see these dairy products as an irresistible (and profitable) target. The rising price of cheese has created incentive, with some pilferers capitalizing on their stolen goods by reselling them to stores and restaurants.
One Parmigiano-Reggiano wheel can sell for more than $500, so it’s a highly valued commodity in Italy (it can even act as collateral for a loan). It’s also easy to see why it’s a favorite item for thieves. Coldiretti, an agricultural organization in Europe, says close to 10 million euros worth of Parmigiano-Reggiano have been stolen in the past three years from factories, warehouses, and supermarkets. The organization calls the thefts “unfortunate and a detriment to one of the most famous Italian cheeses in the world.”