Ice-cream licker faces decades in prison
A woman is facing decades behind bars and more than $14,000 in fines after a supermarket prank went viral and caught the attention of food manufacturers and police.
The woman was filmed licking a tub of tin roof-flavoured Blue Bell ice cream in an apparent prank video that has been viewed over 10 million times in less than a week.
The woman pictured in the video has been identified by detectives from the Lufkin Police Department who said yesterday police worked in co-ordination with the Texan ice-cream manufacturer to track down the alleged food tamperer.
Police have now told NBC News in an email the woman could face a second-degree felony charge for licking the ice-cream tub.
The charge relates to tampering with a consumer product and, according to the Texas penal code, comes with a sentence of two to 20 years if found guilty. She also faces fines of up to $14,239.
In addition to the second-degree felony, police are also seeking advice from the US Food and Drug Administration into whether additional federal charges could be brought against the woman.
Police added they were also seeking a male seen with the woman in CCTV obtained from the Walmart in Lufkin, Texas.
A man, apparently encouraging the woman, can be heard in the video saying, "Lick it, lick it, lick it."
The man then urges the woman to "put it back!" as she squeals and shoves the ice cream back into the freezer.
"Our detectives are working to verify the identity of the female suspect before a warrant is issued for her arrest on a charge of second-degree felony tampering with a consumer product," a police spokesperson told NBC News in an email.
"As that portion of the investigation continues, detectives are focusing on identifying the male (in the green shirt) behind the camera seen in images of the two entering the store together."
Lufkin Police yesterday indicated they intended to charge the woman over the incident.
The department said in a statement the hunt for the woman involved police from a number of different departments who received tip-offs from around the state and directly from Blue Bell employees.
The tainted ice-cream container was located when a Blue Bell employee identified merchandising products in a Lufkin Walmart by watching the viral video.
From here, authorities moved, located and removed the tainted half-pint of ice cream and quickly obtained CCTV from last Saturday, showing a woman they believe to be the woman in the video.
Following Lufkin Police Department's announcement yesterday, Blue Bell released their own statement, saying the store where the "malicious act of food tampering" allegedly occurred had been identified.
"Our staff recognised the location in the video, and we inspected the freezer case," a Blue Bell statement read.
"We found a tin roof half gallon that appears to have been compromised. Based on security footage, the location and the inspection of the carton, we believe we may have recovered the half gallon that was tampered with."
The company yesterday removed the remaining tin roof-flavoured tubs of ice cream from the store as a precaution. Today, reports emerged the freezer aisle was being patrolled by an armed security guard.
"Food tampering is not a joke, and we will not tolerate tampering with our products," the company said.
The woman has not yet been charged.
The news of the charge has invited fierce debate online, with some saying the woman is being punished too harshly.
Others argue her actions could have potentially endangered others and led to the spread of infection.