Ice Cream Lickers Show More May Be Needed to Stop Food Tampering


Disturbing (and disgusting) viral videos of ice cream lickers recorded at grocery stores are prompting discussions about safeguarding food.

Would you be able to tell if ice cream lickers or similar grocery store troublemakers had gotten to the food you buy before you did?

Maybe. But maybe not.

A few viral videos made the rounds on social media over the past couple of weeks showing people opening ice cream and other products and sampling them. Then they replace the lid and put it right back on the shelf. A Texas teenager and a Louisiana man were arrested in the incidents.

It’s a horrifying idea for those of us who like to believe no one could possibly tamper with the food we bring home.

Some of us are old enough to remember a very different type of product tampering. In 1982, a series of murders were committed in Chicago where Tylenol capsules were tampered with. Tylenol responded by eventually reintroducing the capsules in triple-sealed packaging.

There’s nothing to indicate these ice cream lickers were trying to harm anyone. Although if they were ill and the tampered products had been purchased by someone else, harm could have occurred.

Could you really tell if a product you buy was tampered with?

The ice cream brands I buy have some sort of extra security device built in to the carton that would otherwise thwart folks like the delightful ice cream lickers we’ve seen recently. One features a tab you must break off to be able to open the carton. Another has a plastic seal you must break to be able to dig in.

One of the brands featured in the videos has neither. You just pull off the lid and there it is! The maker of the ice cream shown in at least one of the videos doesn’t have a break-off tab or a plastic seal.

But a spokesperson for the company said their production process involves cooling the ice cream in its packaging upside down for a deep freeze so that the ice cream forms its own seal against the top of the package. Therefore, they say, if someone had previously opened the lid, you’d be able to tell.

It seems that many of the people who’d do something like this are out for attention more than harming someone.

But it certainly makes some of us think harder about the food we buy.

I just bought a jar of sliced mushrooms the other day. It’s one of those jars with the little pop-up center at the top of the can. I always check that pop-up center to make sure it hasn’t popped up. When I buy products like Crisco or a tub of butter, I lift up the lid to make sure the seal is intact. When I buy a carton of chicken broth, I lift up that lid to make sure a foil seal hasn’t been broken.

I look for signs of trouble. Not everyone does.

But I’ll say this: at this point, it’s time everyone started doing so.

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Patrick is a Christian with more than 29 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.