Police in East Texas say they have spoken with the suspect in a viral video seen licking a tub of Blue Bell ice cream before putting it back in the store's freezer, and have identified her as a juvenile.
In the video, which was uploaded to Twitter and has since been watched over 10 million times, the girl was seen licking an already opened tub of Blue Bell's Tin Roof flavor ice cream, and then re-seal the ice cream and return it to a store's freezer. All tubs of the flavor shown in the video were pulled from that store's shelves.
Lufkin police dubbed her the "Blue Bell licker." And while it might have been a comedic moniker, police took the investigation seriously. And the potential punishment is no laughing matter.
Lufkin police identified her earlier this week after officers found surveillance video of a female seen leaving the store, who matched the description of the suspect. She could face up to 20 years in prison if she's charged with the second-degree felony.
Officers were able to talk with the suspect and her boyfriend, who is an adult. They say she is from San Antonio, but tied to the Lufkin area through her boyfriend’s family. Police are still working with prosecutors to determine if he'll be charged.
Police said they were "both forthcoming with what occurred and admitted to the act."
Her name will not be released because she is a juvenile, but the case has been turned over to the Texas Juvenile Justice Department.
Lufkin police said they do not plan to charge her as an adult, so the juvenile justice system will decide what charges she may face. Police are still discussing if her boyfriend will face charges in this case.
Bill Marler is a food safety attorney. While some are shocked food tampering carries a possible 20-year sentence, Marler says it's because it can be a serious problem.
“I think you have to use some prosecutorial decision making,” he said. “For example, if the person who was licking the ice cream knew that they had Hepatitis A or HIV or some disease and was doing it, I think that rises to a higher level of culpability that some teenagers doing some crazy things.”
Blue Bell says it believes it located the licked gallon and got it off the shelf. And with the suspected licker identified, the hope is the serious response to a silly video sends a message and perhaps leads to change.
“Hopefully, the authorities can get to the bottom of this and deter other Instagrammer-type people from doing this,” Marler said.
Police also said their investigation was made even more difficult because of a catfish who claimed to be the person who licked the ice cream
The catfish's user name was only different by one letter, and it was the catfish who bragged on Instagram about the incident, and said the following: “Yeah, I really did that. You can call it Flu Bell ice cream now ‘cause I was a lil sick last week. Repost yourself doing this. Let’s see if we can start an epidemic (literally).”
There were several people with similar user names that police had to eliminate before positively identifying the suspect.
Blue Bell has not committed to making any changes to its packaging yet.