An employee licking a gargantuan stack of taco shells: It’s not exactly the image that Taco Bell wants to portray of behind-the-counter hygiene.
But it was a photo of exactly that that prompted an online uproar Monday and a response from the fast food chain after it was posted to Taco Bell’s Facebook page.
The photo was posted by an account registered to “Jj O'Brien Nolan.” The post said the picture was taken in Ridgecrest, Calif., a city of about 27,000 in Kern County, about 150 miles north of Los Angeles.
On Monday, a manager of the Ridgecrest Taco Bell told CNBC that “we’re currently dealing with it.”
The Taco Bell in Ridgecrest is across the street from China Lake Naval Weapons Center and Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake.
On Facebook, the company had responded to the photo by saying it was “conducting an investigation and will be taking swift action against those involved.”
“We believe this is a prank and the food was not served to customers,” Taco Bell’s Facebook response said.
“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,” a company spokesman said in a statement emailed to CNBC. “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.”
The photo, posted Sunday, gained attention Monday after the Consumerist, a blog affiliated with Consumer Reports, wrote about it.
There were hundreds of comments on the Taco Bell Facebook page.
"First of all, he's wearing a taco bell uniform," one comment read. "He is in taco bell, and he is licking bulk taco shells.. What are we supposed to think?"