Taco Bell employee licking taco shells (Via Facebook, http:--tinyurl.com-lcu2guh)
Taco Bell was rushing to put the lid on an employee photo prank that was making the rounds Monday on Facebook (FB) and Twitter.

The photo appeared to show a Taco Bell worker licking a large stack of taco shells. An Internet-wide gross-out soon followed. "Here's a photo that may change your mind about having Taco Bell for lunch today," Consumerist wrote.

The photo was thought to have been taken in a California Taco Bell and was posted to the company's Facebook feed, Consumerist reports.

There was some speculation that the shells were headed for the trash, and Taco Bell seemed to confirm that Monday in a statement to The Huffington Post. "We believe it is a prank and the food was not served to customers," spokesman Rob Poetsch wrote in the statement. He promised "swift action against those involved" after a full-scale investigation. Taco Bell is owned by Yum Brands (YUM).

And so we have another installment of a recipe that fast-food restaurants hate: Mix young, bored employees and smartphones, then add a dash of Facebook and Twitter. Cook them up together and these kinds of embarrassing hijinks are the result.

KFC fired an employee earlier this year after a photo surfaced showing her licking, or nearly licking, a large container of mashed potatoes, The Huffington Post reports.

The taco-licking photo stirred up a range of opinions on Facebook. A former Taco Bell employee said that people were overreacting and that the photo was obviously done out of humor. But other viewers weren't as charitable. "This sure says a lot about your employees, food treatment and what they post on the Internet," one observer wrote to Taco Bell.

More on moneyNOW