Many veteran food inspectors will tell you that they refuse to eat out, having been permanently scarred by the unsanitary, stomach-turning things that they see behind closed kitchen doors.
Now, thanks to a Facebook photo that's gone viral, diners of all stripes and occupations can experience that nauseating feeling for themselves.
The photo, apparently taken in the kitchen of a California Taco Bell, shows a teenaged employee with his tongue extended -- and pressed up against dozens of hard taco shells.
Shells "used for training"
In a statement posted to its website, Taco Bell said that it "do[es] not believe these employees harmed, or intended to harm, anyone."
"The taco shells were used for training in March before we launched a new product, and were in process of being thrown out," the statement says. "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."
The statement added that the franchisor "immediately suspended the employee shown in the photo and is in the process of terminating his employment."
Better than rats or urine
The incident is actually less disturbing than Taco Bell's past health-related scandals.
In 2007, a video captured rats running wild inside a Taco Bell-KFC restaurant in the Greenwich Village section of New York City. And last summer, a Taco Bell employee in Indiana tweeted a photo that appeared to show him urinating on a plate of nachos. The employee was fired.