US supermarket throws out $35,000 of produce after woman 'deliberately coughs on food in twisted prank'

April Roach
Evening Standard
Gerritys Supermarket/Facebook
Gerritys Supermarket/Facebook

A supermarket has been forced to throw away $35,000 worth of produce after a woman was filmed "deliberately" coughing on food during the coronavirus pandemic.

The customer was at Gerrity's supermarket in the Hanover township of Pennsylvania when she reportedly started to deliberately cough on food in the store's produce, bakery and meat section.

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She was chased out of the store and police were called.

The store had to extensively clean the areas coughed on and had to dispose of more than $35,000 (£29,260) worth of food.

The store had to throw away produce (Gerritys Supermarket/Facebook)
The store had to throw away produce (Gerritys Supermarket/Facebook)

Gerrity's chief executive Joe Fasula said: "While there is little doubt this woman was doing it as a twisted prank, we will not take any chances with the health and wellbeing of our customers.

"Working closely with the Hanover Township health inspector, we identified every area that she was in, disposed of the product and thoroughly cleaned and disinfected everything.

"Although we have not yet quantified the total loss, we estimate the value to be well over $35,000."

The store is checking to see if its insurance company will cover the loss but Mr Fasula said: "Rates will surely go up next year."

Police have launched an investigation and, according to local officers, the woman is a known "pest" in the community.

Supermarkets around the world have to had introduce new safety measures to ensure staff and customers are safe from the spread of the coronavirus.

Staff at the store disinfected the area (Gerritys Supermarket/Facebook)
Staff at the store disinfected the area (Gerritys Supermarket/Facebook)

"While it is always a shame when food was wasted, in these times when so many people are worried about the security of our food supply, it is even more disturbing," said Mr Fasula.

"The only silver lining to this travesty is that it gave us the unfortunate opportunity to test our protocols and demonstrate how seriously we take your safety.

"At one point, we had over 15 employees involved in the disposal and clean up."

The news comes after a Dagenham man admitted in court to coughing over police while claiming he had Covid-19.

Darren Rafferty, 45, admitted three counts of assaulting an emergency worker at Snaresbrook Crown Court on Wednesday and he will be sentenced in April.

Anyone claiming to have coronavirus who deliberately coughs at emergency workers faces being jailed for two years, Britain's Director of Public Prosecutions said on Thursday.

Max Hill said there had been reports in recent days of people coughing in the faces of police, other emergency workers and shop staff. Those responsible could face charges of common assault.

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