"This sure says a lot about your employees, food treatment, and what they post on the internet," Facebook user Jj O'Brien Nolan said in a post to Taco Bell's Facebook page, along with a photo of a young employee licking a large stack of taco shells.
Though its unclear whether the taco shells were served to customers -- the fast food chain claims they weren't -- Consumerist noted that the unsettling image "is enough to do damage to a company’s reputation."
"We have strict food handling procedures and zero tolerance for any violations," Taco Bell said in direct response to the posting.
"We believe this is a prank and the food was not served to customers. We are conducting an investigation and will be taking swift action against those involved."
"When we learned of the situation we immediately contacted this restaurant's leadership," Taco Bell rep Rob Poetsch told The Huffington Post.
Many social media users felt that the photo demonstrated a lack of standards for Taco Bell employees.
"It really doesnt matter if the food was to be thrown out or not," Sabrina McMurphy wrote.
"He is a representative of taco bell while working and in uniform, and by doing this AND posting it online for the world to see he is ruining the reputation of the company," she said.
"Regardless of if it was to be thrown out or served it is still a failure or health standards," Sam Knopf said.