Taco Bell, the largest U.S. Mexican fast food chain and host of several E. coli O157:H7 outbreaks via lettuce, said that a franchisee has suspended — and “is in the process of terminating” — the restaurant employee whose photo showing him licking a stack of empty taco shells went viral earlier this week. The person who took the photo no longer works for Taco Bell.
According to USA Today, red-faced Taco Bell executives had to try to explain to a skeptical public the circumstances behind the embarrassing photo. On Monday, the franchisee informed Taco Bell corporate that both employees were no longer with Taco Bell.
Never mind that the shells were never sold, but were only provided for workers to practice making the new line of Cool Ranch Doritos Locos Tacos. The shells were thrown out after use. “This is standard operating procedure and our franchisee confirmed this protocol,” says Taco Bell’s statement.
But many consumers viewing the photo had to think otherwise. So Taco Bell had to act quickly. “One of the smartest things a brand can do is to respond as quickly and intelligently as possible,” says Erika Napoletano, a brand strategy consultant.
The photo was taken way back in March at a Taco Bell restaurant in Ridgecrest, Calif., north of Los Angeles It was taken for an internal contest to supposedly show employees enjoying their first bite of the new product. Things went haywire when the photo, which was never submitted for the contest, ending up being posted on the employee’s Facebook page.
Not only was this a violation of company policy, but the worker also violated Taco Bell’s food handling procedures, the company says.
Hours after many Consumerist readers woke up to the photo of a Taco Bell employee rubbing his tongue across a stack of taco shells, the fast food chain has released a statement regarding the caught-on-camera incident.
In a statement to Consumerist, a rep for the Bell writes:
Nothing is more important than the safety of our customers and team members, and we have strict food handling procedures and zero tolerance for any violations. When we learned of the situation we immediately contacted this restaurant’s leadership and although we believe it is a prank and the food was not served to customers, we are conducting a full-scale investigation and will be taking swift action against those involved.
In the comments on the photo posted to the Taco Bell Facebook page, some are defending the employee in the photo, with one person saying he knows the employee and “I know that he is not dumb enough to lick a stack of taco shells and then serve them to the public… There is a 99% chance that that stack of Tacos was getting thrown out, as in: getting thrown away, so it’s not as if they were going to be served to anyone.”
Another woman claims to be the photographer of the image, writing — in all caps so you know she’s serious — “we weren’t even in the food area! If you can see in the back it’s the soda machines!…You’re opinion doesn’t even matter because this happened a long time ago! Dammit!”
I have fond memories of licking the beaters while mom was making cake and frosting.
But, then I learned about salmonella in raw eggs, and became more cautious around my own kids – but not completely. Admittedly, the risk is low; the risk is much greater when eggs are pooled to make large batches of cakes or sauces.
(In that pic, right, which I lifted from the Internet, I’d be more concerned about the kid’s dirty diaper on the food preparation surface).
Independent.ie reported this morning that three children in Ireland have contracted Salmonella Typhimurium DT8 after licking the spoon used in baking or cooking with duck eggs.
They are among seven people who have been diagnosed with one of the more severe strains of the bug in an outbreak linked to contaminated duck eggs.
Dr Paul McKeown of the Health Protection Surveillance Centre, said yesterday,
"Many children love to lick the cake or food mixture from the spoon during baking and unfortunately in this outbreak it has probably resulted in some falling ill."
Pasteurized eggs are widely available for home cooks now and always an option.