NEW YORK (MainStreet) -- Jean Valjean might have gone after a loaf of bread, but research reveals cheese is actually the food that's most likely to disappear from grocery stores due to theft.

According to Centre for Retail Research, the dairy product has a 3.09% shrinkage rate, besting fresh meat (2.79%) and chocolate and confectionary candy (2.78%) globally. Chocolate and confectionary candy, however, were more in demand in North America, tying for our continent's most pilfered food items with a shrinkage rate of 3.60%. The shrinkage rate measures the amount of products received that go missing from store inventories due to theft or errors.

Retailers worldwide see cheese disappear from shelves most frequently, but not in North America.

In North America, cheese is actually much less in demand when compared with other parts of the world. Its 2.76% North American shrinkage rate also lags behind infant formula, luxury cooked meats and alcohol.

The data are part of a larger survey by the U.K. industry that has found retail shrinkage rates are on the rise. So far, retailers have lost $119 billion to theft in 2011, up 6.6% since last year.

Additionally, the cost of retail crime-plus-loss prevention was $128 billion in 2011, equivalent to $199.89 per family or $66.27 per individual.

According to the survey's findings, dishonest employees cause $41.7 billion or 35% of losses. Customer theft, including shoplifting and organized retail crime, cost retailers $51.5 billion in 2011 (43.2% of total shrinkage), compared with $45.4 billion last year.

Shrinkage can also be caused by internal errors, though, including mispricing, invoicing errors and administrative failure.

The data are based on responses from major retailers in all business sectors in 43 countries. You can check out the survey's full results on the

Centre for Retail Research's Web site


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