Arizona Capitol

Licking Ice Cream That Others Might Buy in a Store is Now a Crime in Arizona

Len Martin of Louisiana was arrested after this licking incident and later fined.
Len Martin of Louisiana was arrested after this licking incident and later fined. YouTube

Len Martin of Louisiana was arrested after this licking incident and later fined. - YOUTUBE
Len Martin of Louisiana was arrested after this licking incident and later fined.
Disgusting food or drink challenges like putting licked ice cream back in a store freezer could result in jail time for some people in Arizona following Governor Doug Ducey's signing on Thursday of a new anti-tampering law.

State Senator T.J. Shope said last year when he introduced a similar bill that existing statutes made it difficult to prosecute people for contaminating store food or drink. That proposal didn't make it, but this year's version found bipartisan support. The bill, SB 1167, passed with two-thirds support in the Senate and nearly unanimous support in the House of 56-3, with one member not voting.

The new law makes it a Class 1 misdemeanor to intentionally introduce, add or mingle "any bodily fluid or foreign object not intended for human consumption with water, food, or drink." That's if a person actually consumes the produce or the damage of the contamination is at least $1,000.

If nobody consumes the contaminated produce and the damage is less than $1,000, it's still a Class 2 misdemeanor with the potential for four months in jail and a $750 fine.

A final provision "Allows the calculation of damages caused by the contamination to include: a) the cost to clean and sanitize the contaminated area; and b) any monetary compensation given to a human being who consumed the contaminated water, food, drink or other product."

The law will take effect 90 days after the Legislature adjourns.

Shope didn't return a message left at his office.

It's unclear how many people are still trying the "ice cream challenge," but enough revolting videos surfaced in 2019 to dispel any notion that this was just an urban myth. It seemed to start with a video of a Texas teen licking ice cream and putting it back that went viral, leading to her referral to juvenile justice authorities. The act was followed by multiple copycats, including a Louisiana man who was later told to pay $339 or serve 34 hours of community time, another ice-cream-licking Texan who was sentenced to 30 days in jail plus fines and restitution, and a Florida woman who was charged with a misdemeanor after filming her daughter licking a tongue depressor in a doctor's office.

Instances of the trend in 2020 have had a coronavirus motif, including a Pennsylvania woman who caused $35,000 of food to be destroyed after she intentionally coughed on it, and a man being charged for licking a row of deodorant cases after asking on video, "Who's scared of coronavirus?"

Though the bill had significant Democratic support to pass both chambers, all the Arizona lawmakers who voted against the bill were Democrats.

Senator Juan Mendez of Tempe explained that it's impossible to "legislate common decency" and that lawmakers should be trying to keep young people out of the criminal justice system and get them help, if they need it, as opposed to coming up with more ways to put them in jail.

"This is an awful solution to a problem that basically doesn’t exist," he said. "It's just a crime that this is going to end up putting impressionable youth into our prisons with little options and plenty of barriers for when they're released. It was a TikTok fad, not an opportunity to legislate."

Indeed, Len Martin, the Louisiana man mentioned above, has moved on to challenges that are less dangerous to others. Earlier this month, to prove that Gorilla Glue wasn't as bad as a girl in a viral video who put it in her hair claimed, Martin spread some on the inside of a cup and touched his lips to it — and was soon visiting an emergency room
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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.
Contact: Ray Stern