A man will lose his hand for stealing chocolate in Iran, according to Fars News Agency (FNA) on October 16. It's unlikely that this is the fate of the world's other food thieves, those for whom the Center for Retail Research's Global Retail Theft Barometer estimates you and your family have paid $185.59/€134 in 2010.

The 2010 Barometer study of 42 nations including the US, China, Australia, France, Germany, Brazil, UK, South Africa, Turkey, India and, new for 2010, Russia, was released on October 19.

A total of 1,103 large retail corporations took part in the survey that found "total global shrinkage (stock loss from crime or waste expressed as a percentage of retail sales) cost retailers and the public US$ 107.3 billion [€77.43 billion], equivalent to 1.36% of their retail sales."

Food thieves cost you and your family on average $185.59/€134 in 2010, a $100/€72 decrease compared with the 2009 study.

"The main crime problem that retailers [worldwide] faced was shoplifting, accounting for 42.4% of shrinkage or $45.5 billion [€33 billion]." However, employee theft in the US, Canada, and Australia exceeded consumer theft.

The greatest amount of loss due to shoplifting was found in the Asia Pacific region (52.9 percent) and Europe (47.8 percent).

India (2.72 percent) has the highest shrinkage rates as percentage of retail sales and Taiwan the least (0.87 percent).

A number of food thieves have been caught in the act. "Retailers apprehended 6.2 million store thieves in 2010, more than the population of many countries with UN membership."

Branded alcohol tops "the most-stolen items of retail merchandise." Here is a breakdown of the food thieves' favorites globally:

- Alcohol, mainly well-known spirits, particularly whisky and vodka, with rum-based spirits becoming more important as they become more popular. Beer and cider are also stolen from shops. (No.1)
- Coffee and tea (No. 5)
- Meat and cheese. There is growing interest in the more expensive cheeses such as parmesan. (No. 6)

And, according to the financial blog WalletPop, America's "most stolen items" included a lot of certified Angus raw meat, fine cheeses, top champagnes and cheap vodkas.

The holiday season is prime time for shoplifting and the Center for Retail Research is due to post its 2010 estimates for retail losses during November and December.

In 2009, they estimated a loss of "£768 million from retailers in Britain and €4821 million from Western Europe as a whole." And found the "equivalent to a tax upon spending of £12.60 per person in the UK and €11.86 per head in Western Europe. Ireland topped the league for the costs of Christmas shoplifting (per head), followed by Holland, Sweden and the UK. We were fourth."

The First Worldwide Shrinkage Survey and "surveys for the next edition of the Global Retail Theft Barometer, GRTB 2011, are expected to be sent out in March 2011." For more information, go to: http://www.retailresearch.org/grtb_currentsurvey.php