In a detailed statement posted on its website, the Bell explains that the shells in the photo were apparently not intended to be served to the public but were training shells for a new product (presumably the Cool Ranch Doritos taco).
“Two employees, however, used them to take a photo for an internal contest in which company and franchise employees could submit for approval photos of themselves enjoying their first bite of the product,” reads the statement. “The contest had clear guidelines about what was acceptable and unacceptable. This image was clearly unacceptable – it violated the rules and spirit of the contest, and the employees never submitted it. But an employee posted it on a personal social media page in violation of the franchisee’s policies, and it emerged online in social media.”
Taco Bell claims that the franchisee has confirmed these shells were discarded after training and never served to the public. Not that this will do much to ease worried minds.
On the matter of the actual taco-licker himself, Bell HQ writes:
“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 employee who took the photo no longer works there. As we complete our investigation we will work with our franchisee to implement any additional action we find appropriate to address this situation and ensure it never happens again.”