Supermarket Throws Out $35,000 of Food After Customer Deliberately Coughs on It

A Pennsylvania supermarket says it had to throw out tens of thousands of dollars worth of food after a woman purposely coughed on items across the store.

Joe Fasula, co-owner of Gerrity's Supermarket, described how their Hanover Township store had a "very challenging day" after a woman coughed on the fresh produce, as well as some of their bakery section and meat items.

Fasula accused the woman, who is allegedly known by police to be persistent problem in the community, of carrying out a "very twisted prank" amid the coronavirus outbreak. He said the store had no choice but to throw out all the items of food that she came into contact with.

"Although we have not yet quantified the total loss, we estimate the value to be well over $35,000," Fasula said. "I am also absolutely sick to my stomach about the loss of food.

"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 said they do not believe the woman was infected with COVID-19, but will make "every effort" to ensure that she is tested.

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

The Hanover Township Police Department confirmed they are investigating an incident at Gerrity's Supermarket in which a female customer "intentionally contaminated" produce/meat/merchandise for sale.

The suspect has been identified and was taken to a local hospital for a mental health evaluation. Criminal charges are expected to be filed against the woman.

Hanover Township Police have been contacted for further comment.

Earlier this week, a man was charged with terrorism offences after allegedly coughing on a supermarket worker in New Jersey and telling her he had coronavirus.

George Falcone, 50, of Freehold, was charged with terrorist threats in the third degree and harassment following an incident at a Wegmans store on March 22.

"These are extremely difficult times in which all of us are called upon to be considerate of each other— not to engage in intimidation and spread fear, as alleged in this case," New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal said while announcing the charges.

"Exploiting people's fears and creating panic during a pandemic emergency is reprehensible. In times like these, we need to find ways to pull together as a community instead of committing acts that further divide us," said Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher J. Gramiccioni.

There are more than 69,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the U.S., the third highest in the world according to Johns Hopkins University. Over 1,050 people have died from COVID-19, with 619 patients recovering from the virus.

The graphic below, provided by Statista, shows the global spread of the new coronavirus as of March 25.

coronavirus, map, covid-19, countries, world

World Health Organization advice for avoiding spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) Hygiene advice

  • Clean hands frequently with soap and water, or alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Wash hands after coughing or sneezing; when caring for the sick; before, during and after food preparation; before eating; after using the toilet; when hands are visibly dirty; and after handling animals or waste.
  • Maintain at least 1 meter (3 feet) distance from anyone who is coughing or sneezing.
  • Avoid touching your hands, nose and mouth. Do not spit in public.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or bent elbow when coughing or sneezing. Discard the tissue immediately and clean your hands.

Medical advice

  • If you feel unwell (fever, cough, difficulty breathing) seek medical care early and call local health authorities in advance.
  • Stay up to date on COVID-19 developments issued by health authorities and follow their guidance.

Mask usage

  • Healthy individuals only need to wear a mask if taking care of a sick person.
  • Wear a mask if you are coughing or sneezing.
  • Masks are effective when used in combination with frequent hand cleaning.
  • Do not touch the mask while wearing it. Clean hands if you touch the mask.
  • Learn how to properly put on, remove and dispose of masks. Clean hands after disposing of mask.
  • Do not reuse single-use masks.
(File photo) A grocer arranges mangoes in the produce section at Whole Foods January 13, 2005 in New York City. A supermarket chain said they had to throw out more than $35,000 worth of food that a woman purposely coughed on. Stephen Chernin/Getty

Editor's Picks

Newsweek cover
  • Newsweek magazine delivered to your door
  • Unlimited access to
  • Ad free experience
  • iOS and Android app access
  • All newsletters + podcasts
Newsweek cover
  • Unlimited access to
  • Ad free experience
  • iOS and Android app access
  • All newsletters + podcasts