(WXYZ) - Taco Bell has issued a statement to the picture that appeared to show an employee licking taco shells that burned up social media on Monday.
The response came in the form of a press release that was posted on Taco Bell's website. In it the company says the shells in question were being used for training in a new product launch in March and were in the process of being thrown out.
The company says the two employees involved took the picture for an internal contest "in which company and franchise employees could submit for approval photos of themselves enjoying their first bite of the product."
However, Taco Bell says that the contest had clear guidelines about what was acceptable, and because the picture was "clearly unacceptable" it was never submitted. However, one of the employees did post it on their personal social media page, and that was how it emerged online.
Taco Bell says one of the employees has already left the company and the other has been suspended, pending his termination. The investigation into the incident is ongoing.
YOU CAN READ TACO BELL'S COMPLETE STATEMENT BELOW:
What is the Issue?
On June 2nd, we learned of a photo circulating online illustrating a Taco Bell restaurant team member violating our food handling procedures with a stack of taco shells.
Our food handling procedures are strict and we have zero tolerance for any violations. In the spirit of full transparency, we want to inform you of what we know in order to respond to customers’ questions on our social media channels.
How Did this Happen?
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.
What we did
We immediately investigated the situation and learned these facts from our franchisee. We are continuing our investigation and our franchisee is cooperating fully.
Our first question was, were the taco shells served to customers? In short, absolutely not. The taco shells were sent to restaurants for training purposes before the new product launch, so team members could use them to practice making the new product before it became available to the public. These shells were a part of that training, were never intended to be served to customers, and were discarded. This is standard operating procedure, and our franchisee confirmed this protocol.
What We’re Doing
We do not believe these employees harmed, or intended to harm, anyone. 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.
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