Some Canadians are shoplifting high-priced food items from grocery stores as the cost of living continues climbing, with a few even taking to social media to brag.
Last week, Dalhousie University professor Sylvain Charlebois wrote about the impact of grocery store theft.
"Grocery theft has always been a major problem, but with food inflation as it is, shopkeepers now fear the wrongdoers more than before," the Halifax-based Agri-Food Analytics Lab director wrote in an article published on Jan. 10.
"According to some industry data, an average-sized food retail store in Canada can have between $2,000 and $5,000 worth of groceries stolen per week. With the relatively narrow profit margins in grocery, this amount is huge. To cover losses, grocers need to raise prices, so in the end, we all pay for grocery theft."
Twitter users weren't happy with Charlebois' words, with some proudly admitting they shoplift and others repeating the phrase, "If you see someone shoplifting, no you didn't."
i steal almost all my groceries and will continue to do so but thanks for posting!
— Paisano Romano (@PaisanoRomano) January 12, 2023
crazy way to frame food insecurity and people going hungry but i guess https://t.co/vWJ8OwvRO1
— . (@NoEmmeG) January 12, 2023
Some of you have never seen Les Mis and it shows https://t.co/LsRtQdvDxJ
— 🎃💀Kelloween👻🎃 (@kell_witch) January 12, 2023
counterpoint: pricing people out of being able to afford food is worse than stealing food from a billionaire to survive https://t.co/9kRcR6kinX
— Eggs B. (@brunchausen) January 11, 2023
Call me crazy, Ann. But if you're too poor to afford food and the government doesn't give you any options - taking food from a corporate grocery chain to survive doesn't sound like THEFT to me.
— resting niche face (@elysseium) January 10, 2023
Charlebois eventually responded to some of the online backlash, standing firm on his position on grocery theft.
"You think it is appropriate to shoplift while grocery shopping, just because you think food prices are too high? Crazy," he wrote, while retweeting another Twitter user.
Since being tweeted on Jan. 10, Charlebois' tweet has gained more than seven million views and hundreds of responses, the majority of which expressed disagreement with his stance.
Do you think it’s appropriate for grocery shops to inflate prices beyond the affordability of their own low paid workers? Or for people who stack the shelves to be resorting to food banks? Or for anyone to be desperate enough to risk a criminal record because they’re starving? 😳
— Jack Monroe (@BootstrapCook) January 12, 2023
I 5000% support it because people invented capitalism but did not invent the need to eat https://t.co/jq8bZe6n2S
— Miss Genderr (@girldrawsghosts) January 14, 2023
Food is a right, not a privilege. https://t.co/TJXg90XWCU
— Ichigo Tomago 🏳️⚧️ (@IchigoTomago) January 12, 2023
Grocery chains waste more food daily than is stolen from them in months, years. Prices are high because they want record profits *during a nation breaking recession*. Theft is cheaper than hunting down the CEOs and eating them. https://t.co/GMqArPRSgv
— Bran (@loathsomebrian) January 12, 2023
Some people online have also called out Charlebois personally, revealing his income and saying he "shills" for Loblaw Companies Ltd. and Galen Weston's family.
I do. Galen Weston and his family are thieves who have profiteered for decades, and if you think it's wrong to steal food (product insured for loss) in order to survive, while you sit in your ivory tower getting paid $221,000/year, you're a clown https://t.co/ukp4OxHzEw
— Chef Gnario, Italian Soup Papi (@nicksays_summer) January 12, 2023
"Food professor" on >$200k thinks people who can't afford food shouldn't shoplift.
Remember if you ever see someone stealing food, no you didn't. https://t.co/D95y2dmHCB
— 💚Lisa-Is-Not-Here-To-F🕷ck-Spiders-BLM💚 (@AngelComrade) January 12, 2023
The outrage over soaring grocery prices has been a hot topic as inflation continues to impact Canadians.
Earlier in January, a picture of a pack of chicken breast at a Loblaw in Toronto went viral, as people expressed outrage over its high-priced label.
The photo, taken by CTV News reporter Siobhan Morris, showed that a five-piece pack of chicken was selling for nearly $27/kg.
In November, both Loblaw and Metro reported growth in sales and profit, but shared they were pushing back against suppliers' continued price increases.
Research from Dalhousie University also showed that Canada's top three grocery companies — Loblaw, Metro and Empire — made higher profits in 2022 compared with their average performances over the last five years.
Notably, Loblaw outperformed its five-year average performance but also did better than any of those years individually.
According to a food report released in December, a Canadian family of four will spend around $1,066 more on groceries in 2023, with food prices set to increase by up to 7 per cent from last year.
"In 2023, it is expected that Canadians will continue to feel the effects of high food inflation, and food insecurity and affordability will also be a big issue with rising food prices," the Canada Food Price report indicated.
"Canadians will still need to be prepared to spend more in the coming year."