Why is cheese the most shoplifted food item in the world?

Antony Worrall Thompson was far from alone in stealing cheese from a supermarket

In one respect Antony Worrall Thompson's snaffling of low-value goods from Tesco was bang on trend: the celebrity chef also nicked cheese.

"I have been Edam fool," was the Sun's front-page headline, amid much conjecture about the disaffected middle-classes chasing thrills, and luxury items that they can supposedly no longer afford. US statistics show shoplifting is on the rise with austerity. And cheese was last year found to be the most pilfered food in the world.

Cheese: easily concealed by shoplifters. Photograph: Mark Weiss/Getty Images Photograph: Mark Weiss/Getty Images

Cheese – and raw meat in the US – is stolen at a much higher rate than other foods, according to Global Retail Theft Barometer and Checkpoint Systems. "The reasons why are reasonably clear, including high demand, easy 'disposal' by thieves and small, mobile formats that make it easy to conceal," say the US consultants in a 2011 report about what the industry euphemistically calls "shrink".

While some of what the criminologist Ron Clarke termed Craved items (Concealable, Removable, Available, Valuable, Enjoyable and Disposable), such as razor blades, DVDs and bottles of spirits are protected with security tags, supermarket cheese is rarely given the same protection, according to Lorraine Gamman, director of the Design Against Crime Research Centre.

She points out how cheese conforms to the Craved acronym: widely enjoyed, easy to conceal and kept in fridges rather than shelves that are subject to more extensive surveillance.

So how did Worrall Thompson shoplift cheese? Not caerphilly enough, as the tweeted jokes cruelly suggested.


Patrick Barkham

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Cheese Postie: the toasted cheese sandwich that arrives in the post
You have to butter the bread, spread the sauce, arrange the cheese, put it in a toaster-proof bag … but otherwise they’ve done everything! And all for just £3.99

10, Aug, 2015 @3:00 PM

Article image
How to choose a healthier cheese

Oliver Thring: Salt is essential to making good cheese, but new research reveals the levels can be worryingly high – so how do you select a healthier slice for your sandwich?

Oliver Thring

29, Nov, 2012 @2:29 PM

Article image
Breaking the mould: why blue cheese is no longer just for Christmas
Sales of strong cheeses, such as roquefort, gorgonzola and stilton, are soaring. Why are Brits swapping cheddar for the veined varieties?

Lisa Markwell

29, Nov, 2016 @1:40 PM

Article image
A scientifically perfect cheese toastie? Pah. Forget about pH levels and get some nice bread
Well done to the American Chemical Society for using its knowledge to study grilled cheese sandwiches, but there is far more to a toasted sandwich than cheese texture. Science may not have all the answers – but we do

Felicity Cloake

09, Nov, 2015 @1:33 PM

Article image
Say cheese! Fondue’s unlikely return
The Swiss national dish is making a comeback. Here’s how to make the classic, and, if you are not keen on resurrecting the 1970s staple, some modern twists

Rosie Sykes

15, Apr, 2018 @1:00 PM

Article image
The best cheese in the world is running out fast. What should we eat instead?
The winner of this year’s World Cheese awards is made by a Norwegian farmer with only 12 cows. While you’re waiting for next year’s batch, here are some alternatives

Felicity Cloake

17, Dec, 2018 @7:00 AM

Article image
Food obsessives: the people searching for the perfect cheese, bread and coffee
They spend every waking hour attempting to make the perfect espresso, sourdough or cheddar. Why? Because they have to …

Simon Wroe

23, Mar, 2014 @7:00 PM

Article image
Why the Spanish love tea, Marmite and Cathedral City cheddar
Spain is now the fifth-biggest export market for British food products. So what does one of Britain’s top Spanish chefs make of his compatriots’ penchant for British grub?

José Pizarro

15, Feb, 2016 @3:55 PM

Article image
Lockdown surprise! How a grey, spotty, forgotten cheese became an overnight sensation
Abandoned in a cellar for a month, le confiné is an unexpected hit - but how does it taste?

22, Jul, 2020 @2:00 PM

Article image
London: the everything capital of the world

Bim Adewunmi: The Great Wen is rated number one in the world for everything from divorce to breakfast. How should Londoners feel about living in the libel and money-laundering capital of the world?

Bim Adewunmi

10, Mar, 2013 @7:30 PM