How many licks does it take to get to the center of a major social media controversy? Turns out, just one. A 17-year-old San Antonio girl has been identified as the perpetrator of the summer's grossest prank after Lufkin Police launched a weeklong investigation into what is now known as the Blue Bell incident.
On June 28, a video of a female licking a half-gallon of Blue Bell Tin Roof ice cream and then returning it to a Walmart freezer began making the rounds on social media. In less than a week, the nine-second clip garnered more than 12 million views.
According to the Lufkin Police Department, which documented this entire investigation on social media in a very meta way, commenters almost immediately identified the teenager as being from San Antonio. This led to a race to find the Walmart in question, an investigation that spread from San Antonio to East Texas after a Blue Bell division manager identified the store as being in Lufkin.
In response to the video, Blue Bell pulled all half-gallon cartons of Tin Roof from local Walmart shelves. "Our biggest concern is consumer safety — in that regard we are glad to see the tainted product off the shelves,” said Gerald Williamson, Lufkin's director of public safety, in a statement.
On July 3, LPD released security footage of the couple and posted it on Facebook. "Once her identity is verified, detectives will proceed with getting a warrant for her arrest on a charge of second-degree felony tampering with a consumer product," police wrote in the accompanying post.
Two days later, on July 5, LPD announced they had confirmed the young woman's identity, and that she was a juvenile from San Antonio. Because of her age, LPD said, the case was passed down to the Texas Department of Juvenile Justice. Her boyfriend, however, may face additional charges, as he is over 18.
Meanwhile, Blue Bell, a company that has seen its fair share of bad press, is once again in the spotlight. In response to the announcement, Blue Bell issued the following statement:
Food safety is our top priority, and we work hard to provide a safe product and maintain the highest level of confidence from our consumers. We are always looking for ways to improve, including looking at methods within our manufacturing process to add additional protection to the carton.
This case is now in the hands of the Texas Juvenile Justice Department to pursue however it deems appropriate.
Still recovering from the 2015 listeria outbreak that forced the company to pull its ice cream from shelves in 23 states, including Texas, Blue Bell now has the unfortunate task of rebuilding the brand once again.