A photo of a Taco Bell employee licking a stack of taco shells has gone viral -- and collectively disgusted the nation.
The picture was initially posted to Taco Bell's Facebook page and later appeared on the Consumerist website, a subsidiary of Consumer Reports.
It shows a man in a Taco Bell uniform licking a stack of about 30 taco shells he is holding in the kitchen.
Taco Bell posted a response to its website Monday, saying it learned of the photo on Sunday.
Apparently, the employee took the photo as part of a company contest, in which employees could "submit for approval photos of themselves enjoying their first bite of the product," according to the statement.
However, the photo was unacceptable according to contest rules and was never submitted.
The taco shells in question were never served to customers, and had been sent to that restaurant for training prior to the launch of a new menu item, according to Taco Bell.
The employee in the photo has been suspended, and is in the process of being fired.
The person who took the photo is also no longer with the restaurant, according to Taco Bell.
"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," the company statement read.