Cost of Living Crisis: Swedish Supermarkets Report Surge of Food Thefts

Swedish food retailers are sounding the alarm over a recent surge in food thefts across the country, particularly meat products, as inflation and costs of living continue to rise.

Several spokesmen at food retailers have warned over the growing food theft trend, such as Andreas Selsborg, store manager at the grocer Willys in the city of Uppsala who said, “The thefts have really escalated in the last year. We have petty thefts almost on a daily basis. And the bigger thefts are sometimes monthly.”

“Absolutely, one thing we have noticed in late autumn is that there has been a shift. People don’t steal goods such as shavers anymore, but they steal meat,” Gustav Johansson, a trader with the grocer ICA told broadcaster SVT and added, “And it’s not just expensive meat, it’s all meat. These are also other goods. We stopped a thief a week ago who had taken three boxes of plain butter, which is over a hundred packets of butter. After all, it has also become expensive.”

According to Johansson, it is not just families and individuals stealing food. “We see ordinary families stealing to increase their household coffers, but also more organized crime,” he said.

Some grocers have taken to placing alarms on meat products to stop thefts, while others now place expensive cuts of meat strictly behind a deli counter. Some have also hired uniformed and plainclothes security guards to mitigate thefts and have policies requiring customers to show their receipts before leaving the shops.

Food security fears have been a major issue this year due to a variety of factors, such as the ongoing war in Ukraine, which coupled with rising energy prices has seen inflation soar across the West.

Going into 2023, food security issues are expected to get even worse as farmers in Europe have warned that they have been unable to properly fertilize crops due to supply issues, as both Ukraine and Russia are major exporters of fertilizer.

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