The Most Stolen Item in the World

by Sarah TheHealthyHomeEconomist Healthy LivingComments: 48

Pop quiz.

What do you think is the most stolen item in the world?




Bread was the first thing that came to my mind perhaps because I love the book and the musical Les Miserables‘. Who can forget Jean Valjean going to prison for stealing bread to feed his sister’s children?

All of those answers are wrong!

Would you believe that after surveying nearly 1200 retailers representing 250,000 retail outlets all across the world, the UK’s Center for Retail Research discovered that the most stolen item is none other than:


Believe it or not, nearly 4% of cheese is stolen each and every year.

Dr. Joshua Banfield, Director of the Center for Retail Research, says that with the price of cheese rising, much of the theft is for resale into other markets or to restaurants.

Other frequently stolen items making the high risk list include meat, chocolate, alcohol, and seafood.

I find it interesting that three out of the top five most stolen items are animal foods considered by Traditional Societies to be essential for vibrant health.

It seems that when desperation sets in at the level which compels a person to become a criminal, the misguided mantra of conventional nutritionists and government agencies to avoid meat and foods high in saturated fat like cheese quickly goes out the window.

Perhaps there is more going on here than small time criminals trying to make a quick buck on the black market.  Could many of these people stealing cheese, meat, or seafood simply be extremely hungry during these tumultuous economic times and instinctively favoring those foods that will give them the most nutrition and ability to survive?



Source: World Dairy Diary

Picture Credit

Comments (48)

  • Hannah

    I would have never thought the most stolen item would be cheese. You learn something new everyday….

    October 25th, 2011 10:06 am Reply
    • Sarah, TheHealthyHomeEconomist

      I was surprised at first too .. then I got to thinking more about it and it made more sense particularly considering that meat and seafood were in the top 5 list too.

      October 25th, 2011 10:56 am Reply
  • Dawn Mc Laughlin via Facebook


    October 25th, 2011 10:55 am Reply
  • Kitty

    So Interesting. We had a case of green beans stolen from our car that we purchased to take to one of the city food pantries. They don’t accept fresh veggies so we give canned or dry beans. They broke the window to take it. Police Officer thought it was a bit funny.

    October 25th, 2011 10:59 am Reply
  • MrsD

    There’s some Mango-Ginger Stilton cheese down at Fresh Market that would be first on my list….definitely worth the risk! Lololol!

    October 25th, 2011 10:59 am Reply
  • Rebecca Conroy

    Thanks for sharing this Sarah. Wonderful insight.

    October 25th, 2011 11:02 am Reply
  • Renee’ Barnes via Facebook

    Who knew?

    October 25th, 2011 11:05 am Reply
  • Julia George Martin via Facebook

    If I was going to steal something, cheese would be top of my list!

    October 25th, 2011 11:10 am Reply
  • Dana Solof (@rungranolarun) (@rungranolarun)

    The most frequently stolen item in the world is #cheese?!

    October 25th, 2011 11:27 am Reply
  • Bren Ward via Facebook

    Wow… I find that really surprising, especially when some cheeses can be so easily made from scratch. Wonder which types they take the most. Do you know?

    October 25th, 2011 11:55 am Reply
  • jen

    I work at Whole Foods Market…..and since our mantra has been to push veganism I don’t see one leaf of kale stolen yet…..ha ha… is Always cheese and high end face care. As I have always saId when this world goes to hell and a hand basket no one is going to “thrive” on kale. It is laughable now, but it won’t be when all the vegans revert to animal products in five years and plunder all the goods!

    Be on the look out!
    Jennifer W

    October 25th, 2011 12:04 pm Reply
    • Joe

      That’s because kale sucks.

      September 24th, 2013 2:16 pm Reply
  • Susie


    October 25th, 2011 12:27 pm Reply
  • Pavil, the Uber Noob

    So, mice had it right all along. Go figure.

    Ciao, Pavil.

    October 25th, 2011 12:45 pm Reply
    • Sarah, TheHealthyHomeEconomist

      I was thinking the same thing! :) Glad you mentioned it!

      October 25th, 2011 5:29 pm Reply
  • Tracy

    I’m surprised it’s cheese, though not surprised it’s food.

    October 25th, 2011 1:24 pm Reply
  • tina

    I apologize. I have a question and it has nothing to do with the post. I’ve made your fermented mash potatoes and there are good. But I was wondering if I could sprout potatoes (cut them into pieces and let each piece sprout.) It would help break down the lectins if they were sprouted. I do realize that people say not to eat sprouted potatoes because they are bad for us but I don’t know if I really believe that. Your thoughts would be appreciated. If I could sprout the potatoes then I could use them to make different types of potatoes (ie hashbrowns, french fries etc.) Thank you, Tina

    October 25th, 2011 2:02 pm Reply
    • Sarah, TheHealthyHomeEconomist

      No, potatoes should be cooked not sprouted.

      October 25th, 2011 5:31 pm Reply
    • AnnMarie Deis

      If you are concerned with the sugars/starches in potatoes, you could always soak them in salted water for a few hours after slicing them. This is what I do and I end up with amazing potatoes!!! :)

      October 26th, 2011 8:20 am Reply
  • Michael Kvetny via Facebook

    In the amazing film Central do Brasil the grandmother (or some such character) instructs the young hero of the movie to always steal sausage…. again, most bang for you buck.

    October 25th, 2011 2:19 pm Reply
  • Anastasia @ Eco-Babyz

    Wow, cheese?! Would have never guessed!

    October 25th, 2011 2:30 pm Reply
  • Raya King via Facebook

    I actually have a story about that. As a penniless hungry hippie teenager , many long years ago. I shoplifted cheese and got caught. Unfortunately for me, I had put it in my friend’s purse which she had given to me that I didn’t know had pot in it !

    October 25th, 2011 2:32 pm Reply
    • tina

      That’s funny.

      October 25th, 2011 6:48 pm Reply
    • Amanda @ Traditional Foods

      LOL. Classic

      October 27th, 2011 2:34 pm Reply
  • tina

    I wonder if soaking the potato chunks would release the lectins and other toxins?

    October 25th, 2011 2:35 pm Reply
  • dots

    Cheese also has those pesky addictive opioids, so it’s just another drug heist in disguise.

    October 25th, 2011 2:42 pm Reply
  • Ariel

    You know, when you think about it, it makes sense! Cheese is delicious, healthy (if it’s good quality cheese, anyway), doesn’t go bad easily, and would be fairly easy to hide. My first thought was bread, too, but cheese will keep you fuller, longer!

    October 25th, 2011 3:43 pm Reply
  • Elizabeth

    This doesn’t surprise me a bit. When I worked in a grocery store we apprehended a thief who had been stealing steaks. Come to find out, she was a poor mom on welfare. She would walk around the store, loading a cart with all kinds of things, while secretly stashing expensive steak under her clothing. Of all the things a poor mom could use…….maybe quality meat really WAS her greatest need.

    October 25th, 2011 3:47 pm Reply
  • tina

    This is sad that people have to steal food…

    October 25th, 2011 6:48 pm Reply
  • Meagan

    Are you sure it’s not the Bible?

    October 25th, 2011 6:59 pm Reply
  • Lucila- Ecuador

    I “stole” cheese from mi moms refrigerator when I was pregnant and in a macrobiotic diet!

    October 25th, 2011 8:43 pm Reply
    • WalterS

      Now you know cheese is *not* macro! May have saved your life though.

      September 4th, 2012 2:59 pm Reply
  • tina

    Why would anyone steal a bible?

    October 25th, 2011 9:00 pm Reply
    • AnnMarie Deis

      I believe it’s a joke. People steal them from hotel rooms.

      October 26th, 2011 8:23 am Reply
  • tina

    Well, I guess if someone was cold enough they might steal a bible to burn. I would.

    October 25th, 2011 9:02 pm Reply
  • Peggy

    I can totally understand this. Cheese is nutrient DENSE, so those chained to a low-fat paradigm would be sorely tempted by its rich, creamy, saltiness and melting, smooth, goodness…

    Excuse me, the apricot stilton in the fridge is calling my name…

    October 25th, 2011 9:09 pm Reply
  • Aden Westerman (@TheWeekDbum)

    The Most Stolen Item in the World – The Healthy Home Economist

    October 26th, 2011 5:30 am Reply
  • Lane Kirn (@lankirone)

    The Most Stolen Item in the World – The Healthy Home Economist

    October 26th, 2011 7:27 am Reply

    This was so funny. I would have NEVER guessed! I would have never even though it was FOOD but I guess that does make sense!


    October 26th, 2011 8:58 am Reply

    And from the pic I was thinking something stolen from a car and dreading the answer was PEOPLE! :(

    October 26th, 2011 8:59 am Reply
  • Laura’s Last Ditch–Adventures in Thrift Land

    That is just plain strange. It hardly seems believable! Wow!

    November 6th, 2011 6:41 pm Reply
  • Leslie R.

    This is so interesting and informative. However, I will be laughing all day about the worldwide cheese-theft epidemic. Who knew!

    December 28th, 2011 11:39 am Reply
  • Philip

    This is where we get the expression, “Cheese it, it’s the cops!”. No, seriously, in undeveloped parts of the world its value relative to its mass is very substantial. In discount stores here in the U.S. South, premium shaving razors are kept behind the counter, because they have a value that is disproportionate to their size. Ideal to steal. Also, cheese is resistant to spoiling. So compared to bread, cheese is more expensive to start with, and it is generally not worthless within a week.

    March 9th, 2012 12:59 am Reply
  • Philip

    Oh, and cheese is also delicious. Let’s not forget that.

    March 9th, 2012 1:00 am Reply
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  • denise

    acctually this is false, the most stolen item in the world is, cigarette lighters

    September 10th, 2013 10:06 am Reply
  • Stoners of Everywhere

    Bic Lighter… it’s refered to as “being Bic’d”

    September 14th, 2013 11:20 pm Reply
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