The Most Stolen Food Item in the World Is Cheese. Here's Why

Ever tucked a piece of cheddar under your arm?

You’d think it would be alcohol, canned goods or something that comes in small packaging like condiments or spices, but nope. The most stolen food item in the world is cheese. That’s according to Time magazine, which cited a study by the Center for Retail Research. 

The most often-quoted figure is that as much as four percent of the world’s production is stolen. Global cheese production hit over 22.6 billion tons annually, so if the CRR’s estimates holds, that means an estimated 90.6 million tons of cheese ends up in the hands of cheese thieves.

So why is cheese most often the target for shoplifters?

“The reasons why are reasonably clear, including high demand, easy 'disposal' by thieves and small, mobile formats that make it easy to conceal,” according to the Global Retail Theft Barometer and Checkpoint Systems in a 2011 report.  

Cheese also falls under the so-called CRAVED items—Concealable, Removable, Available, Valuable, Enjoyable, and Disposable. However, unlike other commonly shoplifted items, cheese is rarely ever protected with security tags.

But if you’re thinking cheese is only ever pilfered in small quantities in supermarkets and grocery stores, you’re mistaken. The website Mashed even listed down some of the most daring cheese heists in recent history, including one in California where two men made off with as much as $50,000 (P2.43 million) worth of cheese from a manufacturer between 2017 and 2019. There was also a case in France where the thieves took 700 blocks of Saint Nectare worth $11,000 (P535,000). And another in Canada in 2018 where the bandit posed as a delivery man and ran off with $137,000 (P6.66 million) worth of cheese from a company in Ontario.


Other stolen items

According to the UK-based CRR, which provides “authoritative and expert research and analysis of the retail and allied service sectors in the UK, Europe and North America,” people will steal almost anything for themselves or to sell to others. 

In its most recent study, these are the most common stolen items from the research areas it covers:

1| Packed meat, such as steak, lamb and bacon 

2| Razor blades

3| Whisky, champagne, gin 

4| Cosmetics, makeup and lipsticks 

5| Branded under-arm deodorants 

6| Batteries

7| Clothing accessories

8| Coffee

9| Baby clothes

10| Jeans

11| Perfume and fragrance

12| Small electrical goods and accessories

13| Sport fashion

14| Boxed sets DVD and games

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Paul John Caña
Associate Editor, Esquire Philippines
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