Taco Bell is firing a California employee in an attempt to end a week of bad press surrounding a prank photo that could have confirmed everyone's worst fast-food service fears.
The employee, who worked at a Taco Bell in Ridgecrest, Calif., was suspended after posting a picture of himself licking a stack of 30 taco shells in March, reported the Associated Press.
"We deplore the impressions this has caused to our customers, fans, franchisees, and team members," Taco Bell wrote in an official statement on its website. It goes on to say "our franchisee is responsible for the employment and conduct of his restaurant’s employees and he has informed us that he immediately suspended the employee shown in the photo and is in the process of terminating his employment."
The photograph was taken as part of a company contest asking employees to submit photos of themselves taking their first bite of the new Cool Ranch tacos. The to-be-axed employee was supposed to be practicing his taco-making skills by stuffing, rather than licking them.
He never submitted the photo, but he did post it to Facebook.
The photo went viral, causing a public outcry by many who thought the taco shells were served to the public, post-slobber fest.
"Install cameras and let employees know they are being videoed, and not only will they be fired, but also face legal ramifications if caught contaminating food, utensils or anything pertaining to the cleanliness of the business or the end product! This must be fixed!" wrote Dorothy Hutchens Lewis on the Taco Bell Facebook page.
Eric Schmidt followed with "Status on employee licking the shells?? How can you eat at this place??"
In the statement, Taco Bell confirmed that the shells were thrown out and never served and that the employee who took the photo no longer works there.
Lesson learned, Taco Bell. "Live Más," just don't lick the taco shells!