Pa. grocery store tossed $35K worth of food after woman purposely coughed on fresh produce, owner says

A Pennsylvania grocery store was forced to throw out $35,000 of food after a “very twisted prank” threatened the health of the public.

The incident reportedly happened shortly before 2:20 p.m. Wednesday at Gerrity's Supermarket’s in Hanover Township.

Joe Fasula, the store’s co-owner, explained he received a call that told him of the horrific, hazardous incident amid an already tense time nationally amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The manager informed me that a woman, who the police know to be a chronic problem in the community, came in to the store and proceeded to purposely cough on our fresh produce, and a small section of our bakery, meat case and grocery,” Fasula wrote in a Facebook post late Wednesday.

After the woman was noticed purposefully couching on the food items, store employees rushed her out of the store before she could contaminate more items and contacted police.


The Hanover Township health inspector helped the store identify every area she was in and Fasula says they made sure to throw out all the food and thoroughly disinfect each area.

“Although we have not yet quantified the total loss, we estimate the value to be well over $35,000,” he added

Faulsa said that while insurance might cover it, their rates will likely go up next year which will further impact their business.

“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,” he wrote.

The woman has since been identified by authorities as Margaret Chirko. She has been charged with threats to use weapons of mass destruction, terroristic threats, criminal mischief, and related charges. 

The District Attorney’s office had also said they would make sure that the Chirko is tested for COVID-19.


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