A Pennsylvania grocery store was forced to throw away $35,000 worth of food after a woman deliberately coughed all over it, in what the grocer describes as a “twisted prank,” NBC News reports. It’s the latest in a string of incidents of pranksters coughing on food, employees, and customers at grocery stores in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
Joe Fasula, of the Gerrity’s supermarket chain, wrote on Facebook that an unidentified woman, described as being known to the police as a “chronic problem in the community,” walked into a location in Hanover Township and coughed on the produce, meat, bakery, and grocery items, doing so on purpose.
“There is little doubt this woman was doing it as a very twisted prank,” Fasula wrote.
Regardless of whether it was a prank or not, now is not the time to be “joking” about coughing on food, Fasula added. Out of an abundance of caution, all of the adulterated items reportedly had to be thrown out, to the tune of about $35,000.
“I am also absolutely sick to my stomach about the loss of food,” Fasula noted, noting that some items are already in short supply, as panic-buying and hoarding during the coronavirus pandemic are taking their toll on grocers’ inventories.
With the help of his staff, Fasula got the woman out of the store quickly, and police were on the scene not long after.
The grocer also thoroughly cleaned and disinfected “everything” and brought the matter to the attention of both the health inspector and law enforcement.
Fasula also noted that the District Attorney will pursue criminal charges against the woman. And indeed, the Hanover Township Police confirmed that they are filing charges against the suspect, who was brought in for a mental health evaluation.
What those criminal charges may be remains unclear. But at least two other people who were accused of purposely coughing at grocery stores could be looking at hard time.
As previously reported by The Blitz News, in the space of a few days, men in Pennsylvania and New Jersey were both arrested and charged with various crimes for coughing in groceries. In the New Jersey case, a man allegedly took exception to a worker telling him to step back, and reportedly coughed on her, joking that he had coronavirus. He’s been charged with making terroristic threats and a handful of other crimes and could be looking at three to five years behind bars.
Meanwhile, Fasula says that the incident, though costly to the store, has given employees a chance to prove their safety protocols.
“One thing is for sure, we will have the cleanest display and freshest produce anywhere in northeast [Pennsylvania],” he wrote.