Forget vegetable bandits — thievery abounds at every level of the food world. First, the high-end. Last night, 60 Minutes took on the ever-interesting world of French-truffle foraging (you can watch the full segment, embedded below), and discovered what many people in the food world already know: The combination of high prices and low yields means the business is as shady as the French fields where the truffles grow. It’s a world full of moblike practices, Chinese knockoffs, hucksters trying to pass off inferior products as the real deal, and thieves. So many thieves! Not only will they steal truffles right out of restaurant kitchens, they’ll even go so far as to steal the poor truffle hunters’ trained dogs. That just seems … cruel.
Meanwhile, the Times over the weekend examined food burglary at the exact other end of the luxury scale. More and more thieves are stealing used fryer oil. In fact, The Simpsons explored this phenomenon way back in 1998, and it’s only gotten worse since then now that prices are “about four times” what they were a decade ago. The real problem, though, is that authorities don’t care all that much. “It’s very difficult to get district attorneys to take [the theft] seriously,” says Dr. Douglas Hepper, who works for the California department of food and agriculture. He tells the Times that the DAs are “busy with murders and meth labs and they have limited budgets themselves, so they have to set priorities.”
But that seems to be changing — sort of. The story says the Golden State has “taken a lead in the crackdown on grease theft,” and since December “the police had caught and cited five people suspected of grease theft.” Which doesn’t sound like a lot of people, but how many grease thieves can there really be in California?