KEY POINTS

  • A woman, described as a "chronic problem in the community," allegedly went to a Gerrity's Supermarket in Hanover Township, Pennsylvania, and began coughing on the store's food
  • Co-owner Joe Fasula said employees worked fast to get the woman out of the store and into police custody, and then began taking food off the shelves
  • Fasula said staff estimated the cost of the food thrown out was "well over" $35,000

A Pennsylvania grocery store said Thursday that a woman’s alleged prank about having COVID-19 and coughing on food reportedly cost the store around $35,000.

The incident occurred on Wednesday at a Gerrity’s Supermarket in Hanover Township, Pennsylvania. Co-owner Joe Fasula said a woman, whose name hasn’t been released, came into the store. The woman, was described as a “chronic problem in the community,” allegedly went to the produce section and began purposely coughing on the food before moving on to parts of the bakery, meat and general grocery sections.

“Today was a very challenging day,” Fasula said. He said employees acted as fast as possible to contact police and get the woman out of the store.

The Hanover Township Police Department said it was called shortly as employees were trying to stop the woman. Officers arrived shortly after to take the woman into custody. The woman was reportedly taken in for a mental health examination and will be tested for COVID-19.

Fasula said after the woman was taken away, employees began gathering food from where the woman coughed and threw it all away as a precaution. Store staff estimated that the total thrown out was worth “well over $35,000.”

The Luzern County District Attorney’s office confirmed it would file charges.

“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,” Fasula said. “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 Pennsylvania.”