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A String of Cheese Theft

For all its finery and youth appeal, you’d figure wine or spirits would be the most stolen food item in the world. But then you’d be wrong. Cheese theft is actually the most common food crime in the world, and the numbers appear to be growing. And it isn’t only high-grade goods that are being taken–even the pedestrian offerings are being swiped from store shelves. Yeah, of course we get it; a chunk of aged cheddar or a Bloomsdale pyramid is so irresistible that you just can’t keep your hands off of it. But at least we put our due change down before we roll away with a wheel. What kind of person would deprive us of such deliciousness and snatch the livelihood straight from the maker’s expert hands?

According to The Huffington Post, “It’s not just grannies saying, I need some cheese I’ll just go and steal it. A lot of the theft is for resale and a lot of this cheese will be resold into other markets or to restaurants.” Four percent of inventory was lost in 2011 to cheese theft, and the average family shopping bill increases between $200 to $400 annually to account for losses. Take this number and multiply it to account for the repeat offenders, and you’ll see why cheese theft is on the rise–up about 6.6% from previous years. It’s a lucrative trade, if you could even call it that.

 Of course, the thefts run both ends of the spectrum: there are the high-profile capers–who operate in Ocean’s Eleven-esque bank jobs or art heists–and then the petty thieves who’ll sooner stuff a hunk under their shirts and run out the front door. Last month in Brantford, Ontario, crooks snuck into a grocery store during the night and swiped a $700 wheel of parmesan. In another grand larceny, two women stole $600-worth of gouda and blue cheese from an Oregon Whole Foods, simply asking for a box from the counter and then bolting out the front door. Even the petty criminals are getting into it; just this week, a British man on two suspended sentences for drug charges was caught again for wine and cheese theft. Perhaps he was thinking something else when he heard about “a few ounces of mac and cheese.”

What’s next? Do we have to put security dye tags in our cheese?

Photo by gonmi / Flickr

Nick D'Errico

Nick D'Errico was raised in an Italian family where he developed an appreciation for good food, a fear of flying bedroom slippers, and a love of cheese. He works as an editorial intern at Culture and currently studies writing and publishing (he wanted to be an engineer, but can't do math). In his spare time, he dons 40 lbs of padding and stands in front of rubber projectiles as a hockey goalie.

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