Food becomes black market's hottest product

Swiped grocery items outpace electronics and base metals. Some recent cargo heists have targeted cheese, juice, Nutella and soup.

By Aimee Picchi May 13, 2013 7:18AM

Home kitchen (© Don Farrall/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Food may be the perfect item to fence on the black market. After all, a hunk of cheese doesn't carry the type of high-tech tracking equipment often loaded in electronics. 

That helps explain why the hottest stolen commodity among all cargo thefts is food, according to Tyco Integrated Security (TYC). Out of all cargo theft incidents, 19% were related to food, outpacing electronics (at 18%) and base metals (9%), according to the survey, cited by trade publication Food Manufacturing. 

Another reason: On the black market, food is more valuable than other products, getting 70 cents on the dollar, Tyco Integrated Security executive Don Hsieh told BloombergBusinessweek. By comparison, electronics fetch only 30 cents on the dollar or less. The rise in food thefts comes as commodity prices have increased, leading to higher grocery prices.

Below are four big recent food heists. 

The 21-ton cheese theft. In March, an Illinois man was charged with stealing $200,000 worth of Muenster cheese from Wisconsin. Authorities claim he provided false paperwork to a distributor, allowing him to load 42,000 pounds into his 18-wheeler. He was supposedly planning to fence the cheese to retailers on the East Coast. 

Boosted juice. In early May, a thief impersonated a delivery driver and drove off with $153,000 worth of gourmet juices. The juices are made by BluePrint, which the New York Post says sell for $10 apiece on average and are said to "cleanse your insides."

Nutella's $20,000 swipe. Culprits stole five tons of Nutella from the German town of Bad Hersfeld in April. The missing chocolate-hazelnut spread is valued at $20,700, according to CBC News


Soup. A tractor loaded with $75,000 worth of Campbell's (CPB) soup was stolen in April from a Florida truck stop, according to the South Florida SunSentinel. The police tracked down the shipment using the truck's GPS signal and arrested an Orlando man. 

Follow Aimee Picchi on Twitter at @aimeepicchi. 

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May 13, 2013 9:02AM
People need to eat.  They don't need electronic equipment, but they do require food.  Expect this to get worse as times continue & especially expect food to start being used as an economic weapon.
May 13, 2013 9:04AM

Thank you Mr Obama for devaluing the US dollar by printing trillions of "new" currency. The devaluation of the US dollar causes ALL commodities to take more US dollars to purchase them, this reflects the true value of the US dollar.

   By doing this your  underhanded move has put the US closer to your goal of socialism! A strong central government that runs peoples day to day lives. Because of your policies over 57 million people now depend on the government for food stamps and untold millions for housing and medical, and you still invited millions of new immigrants (both illegal and legal) into our country. Most of these people bring nothing to add to our culture with the exception of "taking away" our freedoms and culture.

    lastly because of your cowardice for not doing the right thing and limiting your printing of money and facing the recession with "pro business" regulation, you have hurt the people you claim to want to help, the poor, retired (on fixed income) and the middle class.

    Tell us about your trip to Mexico and your promise to build more manufacturing there?  We know you built two  GM plants there with our tax dollars that bailed out GM rather than doing the right thing and letting it start up again by going thru bankruptcy!

   You dream of America as a failed socialistic county is unacceptable to any educated person, you concept of fair will only take down this country to the lowest level and bring very few up. That is just the way socialism works!    Ask Greece, Italy, Spain, Venezula and the UK ~

May 13, 2013 8:57AM
Although I've not seen any news supporting this, I've got to believe that cigarettes must be HUGE in theft and black market sales. Have you seen the price on cigarettes lately? WOW!
May 13, 2013 9:44AM

Then why do lots and lots of foodstamper trash sell their foodstamps for drugs, booze, lotto tickets, or convert to cash for pennies on the dollar????


How many more crack houses need to get busted where they find hundreds of foodstamp cards with pin numbers???


This is the next Benghazi for p-bo, buying votes with foodstamps.

May 13, 2013 9:23AM
I would bet that theft accounts for a small fraction of the black market for food.  A black market is unregulated and untaxed, so every time someone grows a melon in their backyard and sells it without reporting the income, it's a black market transaction.  We've seen a lot more roadside stands in the last few years in our area - people just selling food (produce, preserves, pickles, jerky, etc...) out of the back of a pickup on the side of the road - all cash. 
May 13, 2013 9:20AM
May 13, 2013 9:40AM
We all need to eat that is true, but it seems that these culprits are stealing more than they can personally consume.  This begs the question as to why...  To make a buck or more???  Their actions drive up the prices all of us have to pay for food.  People need to be less greedy and more self sufficient.  They need to get off their perpetual lazy a..  and go to work. They can find a paying job or plant a garden...
May 13, 2013 9:08AM
cigarettes are mainly expensive because of the added taxes local, state and national gov't put on them.  From state to state the prices can vary drastically.  If you go oversees, it' can be even cheaper compared to here in the US. 
May 13, 2013 11:18AM
Food was always the gold & silver and it was right there in front of everybody's face but nobody recognizes it. You can't eat gold & silver, or paper money.
May 13, 2013 10:28AM

Our food is being shipped to other countries also. Last year Georgia pecans were being shipped to China and other countries because they would pay a higher price for them. The price for nuts especially pecans has gone sky high. Have you seen the price for the tuna fish on the popular show and the price for crab meat also?  A tuna can be sold for $25. or more per pound. These fishermen are getting thousands of dollars for one fish. These things are being sold to other countries for exuberant prices. This is just the beginning of this. We can buy things cheaper here in the US than they can in China or Japan but when they pay $50. a pound for anything that we pay $10. for there is going to be a problem.  Anything can be sold like this a can of soup or anything else. If you are sending food to China and they are buying all the soup you have for $5. a can wouldn't you prefer to sell it to them than to sell it to the store here for $1.00? Wake up people. Stock piling food is not the answer. Our laws need to be changed to prevent this before it gets out of hand.


May 13, 2013 11:09AM

With what we are seeing here in the US and around the world with other industries scrambling for the last few pennies that people have, you better start believing that the food companies will be ratcheting up the prices and availability of food stuffs.


Unless you are part of the meek shall inherit the earth crowd, you better be buying a shotgun to keep your food safe for your family. Hungry people will not stop at doors nor will they be afraid of prison (where by the way they will be fed) if it means going even hungrier.


Smarten up people class warfare is rampant now, wait till only the upper class has access to food.


Soylent Green is made of politicians, CEO's and the other self serving bastards that have just destroyed the global economy. YUMMMMMMY

Don't forget cigarettes.  You don't have to pay excise taxes on black market cigarettes, and those taxes make up over 50% of the price.  
May 13, 2013 3:13PM
Nobody needs to eat tons of soup or Nutella.  Turning stolen goods into cash as been around forever.
May 13, 2013 10:43AM
Thank God I live alone and don't have to support anybody else. It is cheaper and less stressful to live alone and as for sex I have the computer so all my needs are met.
May 13, 2013 9:38AM
PRO BUSINESS?????? Clearly you must not be aware of just how well Wall Street is and all the CEO's and other "executive level" types are doing. THAT is the problem here. The ROBBER BARONS are raking in EXCESSIVE amounts of money to the detriment of the middle class and the poor. The wealth inequity in this country is astounding and the fact the food is a black market item spells the beginning of the end due to the SHAMELESS GREED of big business. Look around fool,the rich are only getting richer while many who were formerly middle class have slid into a lower economic status IF not close to poverty. As for those who were already in actual poverty, they are probably now living in the streets, the parks or anywhere they. IT IS SHAMEFUL that this country has come to this. And all YOU can do is blame Obama!!!!! GET REAL IDIOT. While the current president certainly has some issues that, IMO, will further hurt the citizens of this country (not coming out with a plan similar to the WPA of the past, giving amnesty to illegal aliens are two that come to mind but there are a few more), the economy was tanking long before he ever took over the Oval Office. So Obama built two GM plants in Mexico???? REALLY? Pull your head out of your butt and place that blame where it belongs, WITH GM and its CEO!!!!!. Obama haters seemingly cannot see the forest for the trees! PATHETIC.  Furthermore, you (as we all) should be more thankful for what you do have because I fear that in another generation or two, America will bear little resemblance to what it once was and/ or had the chance to become if it were not for GREED!
May 14, 2013 11:45AM
like the writer said; it's just more convenient to steal food stuffs (and fence) than , say, a tanker of fuel or a truck load of cell phones. Why is this news when we should be talking about things like jobs, veteran disability claims, the culture of rape and assault in the military.
May 13, 2013 7:23PM
The governments have stooped to releasing false data and lying to the public about the lack of inflation; meanwhile, the most stolen items are now food and laundry soap.  The public is spending their money on drugs, casinos, and luxury items instead of things they really need.  They are buying houses that are bigger than they need, cars they can barely afford, meals out, and designer clothes that are made so cheaply they can only be worn a couple of times.  Nothing is paid for.  When the next bubble hits, everybody is going to wish they had some savings.  Every country in the world that has this "open border" policy has a ruined economy and is faking employment data to get people to keep spending.  There is just nothing left to spend.  Poor people have nothing left to sell, so they are stealing food.  It is the last commodity that is portable.  Perhaps they think the courts will go lightly on them if they get caught.  If you get busted for stealing Nutella, does anybody think that a judge will believe it was because you were hungry that you stole $20K worth of it?  I guess if there is anything to learn from it, it may be that you need to guard your food warehouse as tightly as you guard your jewelry.
May 13, 2013 2:51PM
yes, thank you obama for saving our ars from the nutcase republicans who would have and apparently still want to pound us back  into the stoneage.
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