Police in France are investigating the theft of 100 wheels of comté cheese from a dairy in the east of the country.

Comté, a pièce de résistance in the region, is estimated to be worth in excess of €40,000.

The speciality can sell for up to €40/kg.

The owner of the dairy alerted the police on Monday and it has been reported that the robbers cut through barbed wire before forcing a back door of the building with a crowbar.

Comté is a protected cheese in the region and Montbéliarde et Simmental cows are the only breed that produce the milk to make the speciality.

It is believed that the stolen cheese will be sold on the black market.

A 2011 study by the Centre for Retail Research found that cheese is the most stolen food item in the world.

It surveyed 1,187 retailers representing more than 250,000 retail outlets across 43 countries and it found that 4% of cheese went missing from shop shelves.

Other food that is commonly stolen includes fresh meat, chocolate and infant formula, the study found.

Glanbia announces plans to expand its US cheese plant

Glanbia, together with its joint venture partners in Southwest Cheese, has announced that it is in advanced discussions for a $140m expansion of their cheese and whey production plant in Clovis, New Mexico.

The expansion, which is expected to be completed in two years, will increase milk processing capacity by almost 30% and create an additional 50 jobs.

Glanbia says the plant will supply some of the world’s leading food companies and meet cheese and whey demand both domestically and internationally.

This expansion will increase Southwest Cheese employee numbers to more than 400 in Clovis.