A woman filmed licking a tub of ice cream and returning it to a grocery store shelf in a viral video last week is facing up to 20 years in prison, police said Thursday.
The Tweet shows the so-far unnamed woman opening a container, running her tongue across the ice cream then laughing as she places the violated dessert back in the freezer, in a branch of Walmart in the city of Lufkin, eastern Texas.
Police said on Wednesday they believed they had identified the suspect after “detectives had obtained surveillance video placing a woman matching the suspect description in the Lufkin store on June 28 around 11 p.m.” They are waiting to finally verify her identity before issuing an arrest warrant.
Police also want to speak to the man she was with, who is thought to have filmed the incident and can be heard encouraging the woman to “lick it, lick it.”
She could face a second-degree felony charge of tampering with a consumer product, the Lufkin police department said in an email statement to NBC News. The charge comes with a two- to 20-year prison term and up to $10,000 in fines, according to Texas state penal code.
Investigators are also in discussions with the FDA and additional federal charges could be made.
“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 said.
“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.”
Police added that detectives will continue to work through the Fourth of July holiday on the case.
The search to determine exactly where the incident took place sparked an investigation spanning from San Antonio to Houston.
Blue Bell Creameries, the local manufacturer of the ice cream brand the woman licked, has called the incident a “malicious act of food tampering.”
All tubs containing the mix of creamy vanilla ice cream with swirls of chocolate fudge and dark-chocolate-covered roasted peanuts have been removed from the store’s shelves as a precaution, the company said. The specific carton believed to be compromised was found among the lot.
In an earlier statement, the company explained that its cartons are frozen upside down in production, which creates a natural, tight seal by freezing the lid to the tub, meaning consumers would notice if any tampering occurred upon opening a fresh tub.