Soaring grocery prices in Canada spark increase in thefts from stores: researcher

Click to play video: 'Soaring food prices sparking spike in food theft'
Soaring food prices sparking spike in food theft
WATCH: It appears Canadians' frustration with soaring food prices is sparking an increase in food theft. As Travis Prasad reports, many people are blaming the stores – Jan 16, 2023

A researcher at Dalhousie University in Halifax is speaking out about the costs of groceries in Canada and an increase in thefts from grocery stores.

Sylvain Charlebois wrote an op-ed piece last week that stated grocery store owners are feeling more concerned about theft than before.

“You can expect more cameras, more surveillance, and more security in general as your favourite grocer won’t have a choice,” Charlebois wrote in the piece.

When he shared the post on social media, he said he received many responses from people who were not concerned about the rise in theft and some who were actually advocating for it.

“So first of all, there’s a lot of anger towards grocery stores right now, grocers and frankly, there is a track record,” Charlebois said on Global News Morning.

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“If you go back a few years ago with the bread price-fixing scheme, nobody went to jail, nobody was fined. The hero pay scandal, which happened during COVID and now with food inflation being over 10 per cent, people are upset, they’re concerned and they’re looking for a scapegoat. And that scapegoat is the grocery store, is the grocer.”

Charlebois said industry data shows grocery stores lose between $2,000 and $5,000 a week on average but it is hard to have accurate data as so many occurrences of theft are dealt with at the store or with security guards and do not involve the police.

“So a lot of people out there think that grocers are actually overcharging for food when in actuality it’s a global phenomena. In fact, Canada actually has one of the lowest food inflation rate in the world right after Japan. So but still, people are very, very angry. They’re angry at Loblaws, Galen Weston, grocers in general.”

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More than a third (36 per cent) of Canadians say their financial situations are very bad or somewhat bad heading into 2023, according to Ipsos Public Affairs polling conducted exclusively for Global News between Dec. 14 and 16.

Last October, Canada’s competition watchdog launched a study of the grocery industry to examine whether the highly concentrated sector is contributing to rising food costs.

“With inflation on the rise, Canadian consumers have seen their purchasing power decline,” the Competition Bureau said in a news release at the time.

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“This is especially true when buying groceries. In fact, grocery prices in Canada are increasing at the fastest rate seen in 40 years.”

Charlebois said he feels for people who are desperate to find food but some of the thefts are employees stealing food to sell at a secondary market food service, such as restaurants.

“And because high prices are a problem for everyone, including the food service industry,” he said, “theft is unfortunately and likely on the rise.”

He said Canadians feel unprotected and need a stronger governing body. He would also like to see a code of conduct put in place similar to one in the United Kingdom.

It is intended to protect food and drink suppliers to major supermarkets from being treated unfairly.

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