Bosses at the store in the US said a woman carried out what they called a “very twisted prank” which forced owners to discard all of the items she came into contact with, which amounted to $35,000 (£28,500) of goods. Joe Fasula, the shops’ co-owner said throwing away the food made him feel sick to his stomach. The prank comes at a time when customers are rushing to stores to purchase groceries amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The woman walked into Gerrity’s Supermarket in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, at about 2.20pm on Wednesday before carrying out the apparent prank.
One of the shop workers noticed the woman coughing and spitting on the food items, prompting security to quickly escort her out of the store and contact the police.
She is also understood to have attempted to steal a 12 pack of beer.
Mr Fasula said he had little doubt the woman’s actions were intended as a joke, but he felt compelled to throw out the affected food and thoroughly disinfect the shelves over concerns for the health of other customers.
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Mr Fasula said: “The woman entered the store and proceeded to purposely cough on our fresh produce, and a small section of our bakery, meat case and grocery
“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.
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“I’m 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.”
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.”
A 35-year-old woman has been arrested in connection with the incident.
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Police will test her for coronavirus.
Hanover Township Police Department said the woman had been charged with terrorist threats, threatening to use a “biological agent”, criminal mischief, attempting to commit retail theft, and disorderly conduct.
They said in a statement: “Police were called to the business after a woman entered the store making verbal threats that she was sick while intentionally coughing and spitting saliva/bile on produce/meat/merchandise.
“The woman 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.”
On Friday the US overtook China as the country with the most confirmed cases, with more than 85,500 positive tests.
According to the latest figures collated by Johns Hopkins University, the US has overtaken China (81,782 cases) and Italy (80,589).
But the US does not have the greatest death toll, at 1,300 COVID-19 related fatalities, the US still trails behind Italy (8,215), Spain (4,365) and China (3,292).
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