Stolen maple syrup, Pappy Van Winkle, and Ben & Jerry’s: What you need to know about stolen food

Credit Craig L. Duncan

Credit Craig L. Duncan

Was someone sleeping on the job? Police haven’t yet cracked the case of the missing Pappy Van Winkle bourbon, but based on the 200 bottles that have gone missing, the county sheriff is considering it an inside job. Bourbon isn’t the only thing that has tempted thieves to steal food and beverages. Stolen maple syrup, Ben & Jerry’s, and even Nutella are among the stolen food items that have hit the news in the past year. In case this is a topic that comes up in a dorm trivia competition – or in an economics class – here’s what you need to know about some wacky thefts involving stolen food.

Pappy Van Winkle

Pappy Van Winkle, distilled in Frankfort, Kentucky, is one of America’s most expensive bourbons. In Washington, D.C., a 2 ounce shot of the 20-year-old Pappy Van Winkle goes for a hefty $65, which is less than the $75 shot from the 23-year-old bottles. The theft of 65 cases of the bourbon was reported on Tuesday, October 15, 2013; the bourbon had been bottled and labeled but not yet shipped out for its annual deliveries. According to Franklin County Sheriff Pat Melton, the job had to have been accomplished by insiders. “I don’t think anyone could walk out with 74 cases of bourbon,” he quipped, noting his suspicions that the bourbon had been stolen a case or two at a time in a New York Times article, “Kentucky’s case of the missing bourbon,” by Trip Gabriel, October 18, 2013. The retail value of the missing bourbon – 195 bottles of the 20-year and 9 cases of the 13-year – is $26,000. Workers declined to comment on the theft, but the whole town of Frankfort – and many restaurant owners – couldn’t help gossiping about the event. Sean Brock of Husk Restaurants posited that the thieves were the team from the George Clooney film Oceans 11.

Ben & Jerry’s and maple syrup

Another weird food heist was foiled in August when two thieves in eastern Sweden didn’t take the melting point of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream into consideration. The pair stole a truck outside a wholesale center in Gävle, Sweden, but were pursued by a security guard. Unable to make their getaway, the thieves dumped the ice cream – much of which had melted – and made a run for it. One of the thieves, an 18-year-old, was apprehended. “This is one of the most unusual crimes I’ve been involved in,” Gävle police spokesman Mikael Hedström was quoted as saying in Local, in August 21, 2013 article, “Thieves’ Ben & Jerry’s loot melts mid-heist.” About $1400 worth of ice cream melted. A much larger food heist was discovered in July, 2012, when Global Strategic Maple Syrup Reserve authorities discovered that $18 million – 6 million pounds – in pure Canadian maple syrup had been stolen from a warehouse in Saint-Louis-de-Blandford, Quebec. Barrels of syrup had been siphoned off and left empty, or refilled with water. The theft highlighted a growing black market for pure maple syrup.

Other weird food heists

What are some of the other strange food heists in recent years? ABC News contributor Alexa Valiente cataloged several in her “Rare Kentucky bourbon latest in odd food heists,” posted October 18, 2013.

  • 3000 cartons of hamburger patties worth $100,000 were stolen in New Jersey in October, 2013
  • In April, 2013, a truck driver was apprehended in Florida with $75,000 worth of soup
  • Also in April, 2013, 11,000 pounds of Nutella – $20,000 worth – was stolen in Niederaula, Germany

Other big food heists include 860 head of cattle from Queensland, Australia; and fields of potatoes the size of a football field harvested by thieves in British Columbia, Canada.

What weird thefts have caught your attention in the news? Tell us in the comments!

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