Taco Bell has fired the employee seen in this image.
The Taco Bell shell licker is looking for a new job.
The unidentified employee and his co-worker photographer are no longer working at the involved Taco Bell franchise, the company announced on its website. A picture posted on Facebook had shown the employee licking a tall stack of shells and the social media masses were pretty grossed out.
"We do not believe these employees harmed, or intended to harm, anyone," Taco Bell said in a statement Tuesday. "But we deplore the impressions this has caused to our customers, fans, franchisees, and team members. The behavior is unacceptable for people working in a restaurant. 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."
Taco Bell also explained the circumstances of the incident.
"The taco shells were used for training in March before we launched a new product, and were in process of being thrown out. 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. 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."
(Read More: Taco Bell Reacts Quickly to Employee's Disgusting Photo)
The corporate public relations officials declined to identify the location of the incident. But the manager of the Taco Bell in Ridegecrest, Calif. on Monday confirmed to CNBC that it happened there. "We're currently dealing with it," Cathy Marx, the manager at Ridgecrest told CNBC in a telephone interview Monday.
The picture was originally posted to Facebook by an account listing an affiliation to Ridgecrest. It was later posted on the Consumerist website after a reader saw it posted on Taco Bell's Facebook page.
The Ridgecrest Taco Bell has an A rating from the public health department in Kern County, which did not return calls seeking comment.
Taco Bell Corp. is a subsidiary of Yum! Brands.
First published June 5 2013, 4:57 AM