Licking ice cream from a container at the grocery store and putting it back into the freezer became an unpalatable viral prank last summer. Now, a legislator in Arizona wants to make the shocking stunt a felony, punishable by up to a year in prison.
In July 2019, a cringeworthy video of a young woman licking a quart of Blue Bell ice cream at a Walmart in Texas went viral on Twitter. The video garnered millions of views and, while it disgusted thousands of people who viewed it, evolved into a trend where a lot of other people filmed themselves doing the same thing.
The teen girl was later identified by store security footage and in Lufkin, Texas, where the incident occurred she could have received between two to 20 years in prison for the second-degree felony charge of tampering with a consumer product — if she had been an adult.
But in Arizona, similar legislation does not exist. So when people do tamper with food, it's harder to enforce with punishment, according to one Republican lawmaker in Arizona.
This week, T.J. Shope, a member of the Arizona House of Representatives, introduced a bill that would make any type of food tampering a misdemeanor punishable by up to four months in jail and $750. Additionally, for anyone who posts photos or videos of the crime, it would become a felony punishable by up to a year in prison.
"It is unlawful to knowingly introduce, add or mingle any bodily fluid, foreign object not intended for human consumption or unsanitary surface with any water, food, drink or other product that may be consumed by a human being," the HB2299 bill states.
On Instagram, the hashtags #icecreamlicker and #icecreamlickers have hundreds of posts collectively. While it's clear that some people are likely just reenacting the prank for the 'gram and not putting them back into the freezer case, Rep. Shope says that local officials have reported incidents in which people touched food and did not buy it.
"We had a couple of these instances in Arizona and police officers had a little trouble because the current statutes on tampering and things don't necessarily take some of these other items into account,” the legislator told Phoenix's 3TV.
A lot of ice cream lovers have since shared unique ways that might prevent public ice cream licking.
One person shared a photo of their local store with security tags wrapped around each ice cream container and posted what's likely on everyone's minds: "This is why we can't have nice things."
Another Instagram user shared a meme with a pint of Ben & Jerry's armed with a safety lock.
Shequel Ross, an attorney who runs a legal education program, took to Instagram amid the unpleasant trend's rising popularity to educate pranksters about the actual legal ramifications of licking ice cream.
"Let's be clear, food tampering (equals) felony and can be a federal crime. LEAVE FOOD ALONE!" she wrote.
Shope has also introduced another bill, HB 2298, that would require independent contractors who work for food delivery services like Uber Eats and Postmates to obtain a food-handler's license. That measure would be enacted as another layer of consumer protection against deliverymen who may be tempted to sample their customer's food before dropping it off.
A hearing date for either bill has not been set.