From baked beans to caviar, food thefts are on the rise. Cheese is the most-stolen food, but walnuts, honey and tomatoes are big business too. Here are 10 ambitious recent heists
Purveyors of tinned goods be warned. On Monday night, 6,400 tins of Heinz baked beans were stolen from a parked lorry in Worcestershire. Thieves cut through the side while the driver slept. But it's not just tins of beans you need to keep safe; all kinds of food is increasingly being targeted by criminals. Of course, food theft is a serious business with serious consequences, but it is difficult not to start drooling at the thought of owning an entire truckload of Austrian milk chocolate. Here is a round-up of some of the more impressive food crimes we've seen in recent years.
Perhaps better described as a binge than a theft, thieves in Germany made off with £13,600 of Nutella this April after taking the jars from a parked trailer. Seven pallets were taken, amounting to 6,875 large jars - or 27m calories - of the chocolate and hazelnut spread. They could be part of a complex international network of Nutella thieves; in March it was claimed $5,000 (about £3,000) of Nutella goes missing a week from Columbia University's dining facilities. One student council representative said staff "couldn't really believe ... how much they were going through the stuff."
In 2009, a man and woman in New Zealand were arrested after being caught with boxes containing 20 1kg blocks of vacuum-packed cheddar, stolen that morning from a train. As the police chased the couple, cheese was flung out of the vehicle on to the road, in what will probably go down as one of the more bizarre car chases in history. It is said that cheese is the most stolen food type. One report in 2011 went so far as to label the product "high risk" after finding £4.9m of it was stolen in the UK that year alone. It is a problem in the US as well. This March, a man was caught driving an 18-wheel truck loaded with $200,000 worth of stolen muenster cheese from Wisconsin. Veniamin Balika was planning to sell the Amish-made cheese on the black market.
In a heist that could probably go down in history as Canada's Great Train Robbery, thieves stole £12.5m of maple syrup from a storage facility, threatening the very lifeblood of the nation. The crime took place last August in the province of Quebec. Anne-Marie Granger Godbout from the Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers told the Reuters news agency: "I can assure you there will be no shortage in maple syrup." Canada can only imagine how thankful we are for that fact.
Last October, Northern California suffered the loss of 80,000 pounds (36,287kg) of walnuts, valued at around $300,000, which were stolen in two instalments over a period of days. The walnuts were collected for delivery but sadly never made it to their destination. Police believed it was the work of a "suspicious delivery driver" with a strong Russian accent. Walnut theft has been on the rise recently - only last week, $50,000 worth of the nuts were stolen from another farm in California. A rise in demand in Asia, matched by a reduction in the number of trees, has caused a spike in the price of walnuts, making them an increasingly valuable commodity.
Some thieves like their food hot. However, not content with a Gregg's steak bake, one young couple racked up a £572 bill at Michelin-starred restaurant L'Autre Pied in Marylebone before running off without paying. Adding to the air of glamorous mischief, the table was booked under the name Lupin - presumably after the fictional French villain Arsène Lupin. The culprit, a 27-year-old Latvian man named Janis Nords, was eventually arrested by police while trying to scarper from another dinner worth £1,022 at L'Oranger in St James's. The young film-maker admitted nine offences, claiming he only did it to impress his girlfriend, who told police she was "unaware" of the scam.
Most of us can only dream of owning 18 tonnes of chocolate (and we do), but for thieves in Austria, that dream became a reality when they pilfered 33 pallets of delicious milk chocolate from a factory in Bludenz. The authorities only realised that the paperwork for the vehicle and driver were forged when the real truck turned up later.
The delicacy of choice for Bond villains, as well as being very popular with Russians during new year celebrations, caviar is a very valuable dish indeed. In 2005, while the new year festivities continued, thieves in Moscow made off with 845 cans of the stuff, which they took from a lorry. The total value of the heist? A whopping $470,000.
Honey is an increasingly sought-after product. Earlier this month, sweet-toothed thieves broke into the Holland & Barrett store in Bodmin, Cornwall, and took more than 100 jars of expensive manuka honey. It is not just manuka's supposed anti-bacterial properties they were after; large jars can retail for up to £50. In August, one Tesco manager decided manuka honey was so desirable it should be security-tagged. "The fact is that you have people with expensive tastes but not necessarily the money in their pockets to pay for them," he told the Daily Mail.
Police in Canada weren't looking for the usual beef with criminals last month, after 40,000 pounds (about 18,000kg) of meat were stolen from a truck in Hamilton. The suspects stole a tractor-trailer load from a truck yard, making off with $100,000 worth of beef in the process. As local papers report, the beef was sadly never recovered. Earlier that month, a 21-year-old in the same town was caught legging it from a shop with $250 of steaks.
In 2011, rocketing tomatoes prices led to - you guessed it - a rise in thefts of the fruit. In Florida, one gang of thieves stole six tractor loads of tomatoes in a heist worth $300,000, which also included a truck full of cucumbers and frozen meat. The price rises were caused by a bad harvest in Mexico. Similar circumstances have led to thefts of soy beans and corn.
Photo:Baked beans, Photograph: Alamy