After a customer coughed all over produce in a grocery store in Pennsylvania, the store was forced to trash an estimated $35,000 in produce – following growing concerns over the coronavirus.
The store’s co-owner Joe Fasula explains that the woman came into Gerrity’s Supermarket in Hanover Township around 2:20 p.m. and “proceeded to purposely cough” on the store’s fresh produce.
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She also coughed on a section of its bakery, meat case, and grocery shelves.
“While there is little doubt this woman was doing it as a very twisted prank, we will not take any chances with the health and well-being of our customers. 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 on the store’s Facebook page.
“Although we have not yet quantified the total loss, we estimate the value to be well over $35,000,” he added.
Even though the cougher is not believed to be infected by the virus, police labeled her as “a chronic problem in the community.” Fox News reported that Fasula added that the woman hadn’t been in the store before and police were contacted after employees got her out as fast as possible.
The case has been brought to the District Attorney’s Office, which will be pursuing criminal charges.
Soon after, Hanover police announced that the suspect was identified and was undergoing a mental health evaluation at a local hospital.
“I am also absolutely sick to my stomach about the loss of food,” Fasula said. “While it is always a shame when food is wasted, in these times when so many people are worried about the security of our food supply, it is even more disturbing.”
Fasula added that the “only silver lining to this travesty” is that the incident allowed the store to test its safety protocols, as reported by Fox News.
On the store’s Facebook post, Fasula added: “I would like to thank every member of our organization who pitched in today to help, especially those of you who came in on your day off and those who stayed late. I would also like to thank the people who will going in early tomorrow to get the departments restocked. One thing is for sure, we will have the cleanest display and freshest produce anywhere in northeast PA.”