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IRVINE, Calif. – A spokesperson for Irvine-based Taco Bell Corporation says that the viral photograph posted of an employee licking a stack of tacos isn't what you think it is. The photo on a personal Facebook page was of an employee who thought he was participating in an internal competition to show how delicious the new Cool Ranch Doritos Locos Taco are. The franchising company says that when the employee licked the taco shells in the kitchen, not only was it incredibly bad food safety practice but it also was clearly in violation of the contest rules.
The photographer left the employ of the franchise and recently posted the controversial photo on Facebook.
The simple visual of taco shells being licked in the kitchen looked bad. The world was repulsed. And the brand had a viral news problem.
The Taco Bell Corporation wrote a press release Monday that it discovered that the stack of shells were used in the restaurant for only training purposes in March before the Cool Doritos tacos were introduced to the public. The shells "were in the process of being thrown out." That's when the photo was snapped. The employee licking the taco shell stack was meant for an internal contest, where employees could illustrate just how great Taco Bell's new Doritos flavored taco shells are.
Results of the photo competition can be seen at tacobell.com. Employees are eating tacos one at a time in the dining area, not licking a stack in the back kitchen.
"The contest guidelines prohibited photos taken in the restaurant kitchen, containing inappropriate or indecent material, or communicating images inconsistent with the positive image and goodwill to which the brand aspires," declares a spokesperson for the Irvine-based company to Blue MauMau. Taco Bell provided this journal a few of the contest rules, which clearly declares: "The photo cannot be taken in the back of house/kitchen portion of the restaurant. We ask that you please step out in front of the counter or restaurant to take the picture with the permission of your manager/shift lead." It also asked that submitted photographs not be inappropriate, defamatory or libelous.
Unfortunately, the photo was not given to a manager in the franchise, nor was it e-mailed to the brand. Those managerial checks and balances would have stopped such foolishness.
But the broken rules to the photo contest are just semantics. There's a bigger issue that Taco Bell Corporation and franchisees address head on.
"Our biggest issues are the fact that it was a violation of our food safety protocol and that it was posted on social media in violation of Taco Bell's and the franchisee's standards and policies," declares the brand spokesperson.