A Pennsylvania grocery store said it had to throw out $35,000 worth of food after a woman "purposely" coughed on it in what the co-owner called a "twisted prank" amid the coronavirus pandemic. Police are investigating the woman who Gerrity's Supermarket describes as a "chronic problem in the community."
Gerrity's co-owner Joe Fasula said on Facebook that it happened at the Hanover Township store Wednesday. Fasula claims the woman "purposely" coughed on fresh produce, a small section of the bakery, the meat case and the grocery.
"We had no choice but to throw out all product she came in contact with. Working closely with the Hanover Township health inspector, we identified every area that she was in, we disposed of the product and thoroughly cleaned and disinfected everything," Fasula said, estimating the loss at more than $35,000.
His Facebook post showed photos of now empty produce and bakery shelves where the food had been thrown away.
Fasula never mentioned coronavirus, but said the incident was disturbing "in these times when so many people are worried about the security of our food supply."
Fasula said employees got the woman out of the store as fast as possible and called police. Although he said he doesn't believe the woman is infected, she will be tested anyway.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "there is no evidence to support transmission of COVID-19 associated with food." But it says it's always important to wash your hands thoroughly for at least 20 seconds for general safety before preparing or eating food.
The Hanover Township Police Department said on Facebook it is investigating and that the woman was being given a mental health evaluation. Police said criminal charges will be filed.
Fasula said more than 15 employees were involved in the disposal and clean-up. He said the store is checking to see if insurance will cover the losses, but Fasula expects his insurance rates to go up, regardless.