Nobody likes to think of the content in his or her take-out. Greasy hamburgers, salty French fries, and soft-serve shakes are a staple of the American diet, and whether people like to think about it or not, they are ingesting tons of hidden calories and fats. It’s bad enough that health-food proponents are doing their best to scare people away from the drive-through and into the fresh food aisle— but now photographs have been released that remind us that however bad the calorie count of our favorite fast food sins may be, the real dangers might be lurking in fast food kitchens.
When Taco Bell hosted an internal contest for its employees asking them to submit photos celebrating the chain’s new Dorito Locos Tacos, featuring shells made out of real Cool Ranch Doritos, they probably weren’t expecting a nationwide scandal. That was, until two teens working in an Irvine, California Taco Bell decided to upload humorous photographs of themselves enjoying the taco shells a little bit too much to Facebook. The photos were never officially posted to the company’s site—the taco licker in question posted them to his private Facebook—but the incident quickly sparked outrage throughout the country from taco fans who feared their Cool Ranch Doritos Locos may have been tainted.
Responding quickly, Taco Bell’s public relations team assured the anxious public that the compromised taco shells had never made their way out of Taco Bell kitchens. The chain claims that employees had been given the taco shells in order to practice making the new products, and that all of the products had been thrown out after the taco licker had his taste of Cool Ranch flavor. Of course, some people still aren’t buying Taco Bell’s explanation, and many people are becoming more leery of eating out at restaurants whose kitchen staff is made up primarily of underpaid and undertrained teenagers.
Of course, one of the big takeaways from this take-out incident is the role of social media. Without Facebook, it is likely that this photograph would never have been shared, much less become a national scandal. Things that people do in private are not really private, especially when there is somebody there with a camera to capture the incident with a questionable photograph.
Whether the taco licker actually licked any outgoing tacos is still up for debate. The chain is currently in the process of releasing him from his taco producing position with the company, so at the very least customers who go to that particular Irvine location can rest easy in knowing that their favorite, or at least their most affordable, Mexican eats are safe from saliva. It still serves as a reminder that whether it is a cheap fast-food joint or a 5 star restaurant, people still don’t know everything that goes on in the kitchen—and perhaps that is for the best.
Are we as a nation becoming too sensitive to this sort of thing? While it certainly isn’t pleasant to think about, it is true that for the most part, incidents like these haven’t done any real harm. There haven’t been many tests done to determine whether saliva can cause mass bacterial growth on taco shells, but people are far less likely to experience illness as a result of taco licking than due to toxic meat. (On a side note, Taco Bell does seem to have proven that most of its ground meat is actually ground meat, even though some sources would have people believe otherwise.)
Then again, it was the taco licker’s job to deliver a safe product to his customers, and to engage in at least some form of professionalism while on duty. Whatever his crimes may be, his worst offense was forgetting how quickly items on the Internet can spread and letting his joke become a scandal of epic proportions. Perhaps in the future he, along with all the other taco preparation experts, cheeseburger assemblers, and pizza peddlers of the nation, will at least remember that when it comes to juvenile pranks, it’s best to keep them out of the kitchen.