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Urine or soda? Taco Bell prank mystery plagues Internet

While the original tweet is long gone, its content still remains archived by a website called Topsy.Topsy

"Guess where I work," a young man tweeted recently. He included a photo of what appeared to be a stream of urine aimed at a Taco Bell order of nachos.

The denizens of the Internet were almost instantly up in arms — once everyone finished gagging, that is — just as they were when a Burger King employee posted a photo of his feet in a lettuce bin.

But unlike the Burger King employee, the fast-food preparer in the Fort Wayne, Ind. Taco Bell at the center of this tale may not have actually committed an egregious sin. There's reason to believe that the fluid in question was in fact a soft drink.

NBC News has learned, through an individual privy to details of Taco Bell's investigation of the incident, that the company determined the young man behind the photo may not have ever even unzipped his pants. "He made hole in a soda bottle and created the impression that he was urinating," NBC News was told. "That's watered-down soda in the picture."

What's more, the food, however soiled, was likely never destined for customers. When NBC News reached Taco Bell, a spokesperson provided this official statement: "We have strict food handling procedures and zero tolerance for any violations. As soon as we learned of the situation, we immediately investigated and found the photo was an ill-conceived prank and the food was never served to customers."

Decorum prohibits us from embedding the image in this post. However, if you are dying to view it — and you willfully acknowledge (at least to yourself) that what you are about to see is disgusting — you can have a peek right here.

The Daily Dot's Kris Holt reports that the young man responsible for the controversial photo was identified by members of hacktivist group Anonymous, who tweeted a link to a (now removed) YouTube video which contained his "personal details, including his home address, in its description."

The young man's Twitter and Facebook account appear to have disappeared from the Internet at this point — but Holt points out that one of his final public messages included a claim that the order he allegedly urinated on was "one that was already messed up." This matches what NBC News learned about the situation — that the meal was "an order that wasn't made properly."

Tasty nachos or messed up order, urine or Mountain Dew, mystery or mystery — one thing is for certain: Taco Bell's taking the situation seriously. The worker has been suspended at this point and the company plans to "terminate anyone involved [with the prank] and work with authorities to pursue legal action."

In the meantime, Fort Wayne-based local TV station WPTA reports that Mindy Waldron, an administrator with the Allen County Health Department, is aware of what happened and that she and her team are making sure nothing similar happens again.

"We are requiring mandatory education of all of their staff at some point in the near future," she told the station, "where we can sit down with all of them and stress the importance of the general food safety practices."

For fast-food pranksters, technology is proving to be a double-edged sword. The Internet may be a tempting place to post all of these gross prank photos, but it also makes the identification of those who desecrate food a rather quick task.

Want more tech news or interesting links? You'll get plenty of both if you keep up with Rosa Golijan, the writer of this post, by following her on Twitter, subscribing to her Facebook posts, or circling her on Google+.