Coronavirus: Food worth $35,000 'deliberately' coughed on in supermarket

Connor Sephton, news reporter

A supermarket has had to throw away $35,000 (£28,500) of groceries after a woman "deliberately" coughed on fresh food.

Gerrity's Supermarket in Pennsylvania described the woman's actions as a "very twisted prank", and said it had no choice but to discard all of the items she came into contact with.

Co-owner Joe Fasula said the store's fruit and vegetable aisles - as well as its meat and bakery - were targeted in the incident.

He wrote on Facebook: "I am also 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."

On Twitter, the store added: "It truly saddens us. We are doing our best to provide everyone a safe environment & the items they need during this time including our seniors & those who are immunocompromised."

Shop shelves have now been thoroughly cleaned and disinfected. Although the woman is not believed to have coronavirus, local police are planning to administer a test.

A 35-year-old called Margaret Cirko has been arrested in connection with the incident.

In a statement, Hanover Township Police Department said: "Police were called to the business after Cirko entered the store making verbal threats that she was sick while intentionally coughing and spitting saliva/bile on produce/meat/merchandise.

"Cirko continued this behaviour in several aisles before attempting to steal a 12 pack of beer as she was being ordered to leave the store by employees."

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She has been charged with terrorist threats, threatening to use a "biological agent", criminal mischief, attempting to commit retail theft, and disorderly conduct.

Supermarkets around the world have been struggling to keep up with demand as shoppers stockpile goods.

Mr Fasula says his store's shelves of fresh produce have now been fully restocked.