Texas Justice — Legal consequences for licking a container of Blue Bell ice cream (before it’s purchased!)

A woman from Texas recently filmed a video of herself licking a tub of Blue Bell ice cream and returning it to a store shelf at a Wal-Mart in Lufkin, Texas. The video soon went viral and has since received over 13 million views. Since the incident, Blue Bell has released a statement that it takes the issue “very seriously” and is “currently working with the appropriate authorities.” The compromised half-gallon of the Tin Roof flavored ice cream was identified and quickly removed from the shelf along with the remaining Tin Roof tubs.

Buy the Blue Bell Ice Cream and THEN Enjoy It

Prior to identifying the woman, police were prepared to issue an arrest warrant charging the woman with the second-degree felony of tampering with a consumer product under the Texas Penal Code. SeeTex. Penal Code Ann. §22.09(b),(d). As defined by the Penal Code, a person “tamper[s]” with a product by “alter[ing] or add[ing] a foreign substance to a consumer product to make it probable that the consumer product will cause serious bodily injury.” Tex. Penal Code Ann. § 22.09(a). Furthermore, “a person commits an offense if he knowingly or intentionally tampers with a consumer product knowing that the consumer product will be offered for sale to the public or as a gift to another.” Tex. Penal Code Ann. §22.09(b). 

Police have since identified the woman as a teen from San Antonio; therefore, given her status a minor, the case will move forward with the Texas Juvenile Justice Department. However, had the woman been tried as an adult, the second-degree felony charge would have carried a consequence of no more than 20 years of imprisonment but no less than two years. See Tex. Penal Code Ann. §12.33. In addition to the imprisonment, the charge includes the possibility of a fine not to exceed $10,000. Id. 

When a Food Tampering Prank Turns Into a Felony

Although there have been no reports of harm resulting from the incident, if serious bodily harm had occurred, the woman (if tried as an adult) could have possibly been charged with a first-degree felony of tampering with a consumer product under the Texas Penal Code—a charge that carries a minimum of a five-year prison sentence to a maximum of a life sentence in addition to a maximum fine of $10,000. SeeTex. Penal Code Ann. §§22.09 (d) and 12.32.

The video has since led to a few “copycat” incidents, including the recent arrest of 36-year old Lenise Martin III in Louisiana after he posted a video on Facebook of him licking Blue Bell ice cream from a container in a grocery store and putting it back in the freezer. Martin was arrested on charges for criminal mischief for tampering with property and the unlawful posting of criminal activity for notoriety and publicity. In response, Martin allegedly provided a receipt indicating that he actually purchased the half-gallon of ice cream. According to police in Louisiana, the purchase of the ice cream itself didn’t absolve Martin of any wrongdoing, “[he] puts it on facebook to gain this notoriety and at the end of the day, it gives other people ideas that are not the best interest of public health.” 

Ultimately, while it does not appear that incidents of this nature would lead to civil liability on the party of the manufacturer or the retailer, serious criminal penalties, including five-figure fines and prison time, may be imposed depending on the underlying facts specific to each incident.



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