IRVINE, CA—In a new handbook distributed Friday to employees at all 6,500 of its locations worldwide, fast food chain Taco Bell has issued an updated set of safety protocols that warns workers against directly exposing their skin to any of its food products.
The company’s revised food-handling directives, which apply to every item on the restaurant’s Tex-Mex–inspired menu, require employees to notify their shift manager immediately if Taco Bell ingredients make even brief surface contact with any part of their body, with the exception of instances when items come in contact with the eyes, in which case all workers are instructed to use the nearest emergency eye wash fountain “without delay.”
“We want our team members to protect themselves from the dangerous complications that result when the skin of one’s hands or face is directly exposed to either a regular menu item or a featured promotional specialty during the food preparation process,” read an excerpt from the 436-page manual, noting that an employee’s first line of defense is to wear chemically impermeable butyl gloves when dispensing the restaurant’s meats, salsa, or three-cheese blends. “The easiest way to ensure safety on the job is to wear an approved Taco Bell long-sleeve work coat and disposable latex shoe covers at all times while in the restaurant’s kitchen, and above all, be mindful when preparing a menu item so that no food or condiment ever touches exposed flesh.”
“However, in the event of epidermal contact with any of our meat fillings, you must immerse the affected area under running water at once and then apply the neutralizing chemical agent found in the wall-mounted dispensers located every five feet above the food preparation counters,” the manual continues.
The new instructional materials detail numerous preventative measures employees should follow to avoid compromising their health, such as limiting their kitchen shifts to three hours in order to prevent prolonged exposure to dollar-menu items or a maximum of 25 minutes if the kitchen’s fume hoods are not functioning. In addition, the handbook urges workers to take their breaks outdoors in fresh air at least 100 feet away from any Doritos Locos Taco.
The guidelines further direct kitchen workers to seal any broken taco shells in specially marked plastic bags and discard the bags in one of the red puncture-resistant waste disposal containers located throughout the kitchen. Employees are also instructed to wear their company-issued safety goggles before entering the burrito assembly area, know the location of the restaurant’s emergency potassium iodide tablets, and submit themselves to periodic testing with a qualified toxicologist.
It is also recommended that any clothing soiled with Zesty Pepper Jack Sauce be disposed of as soon as possible in the industrial furnaces provided at each franchise location for this purpose.
“Under no circumstances should employees remove their lead aprons when in the vicinity of any of our nacho-based menu options,” the manual states. “Furthermore, Taco Bell crew members—especially those who are pregnant or might become pregnant—must always wear aluminized protective coveralls and a military-grade respirator mask in the presence of our refried beans.”
“It is absolutely imperative that the Cheesy Gordita Crunch be assembled behind a pane of protective glass until the moment it is served to customers,” the manual adds. “There can be NO EXCEPTIONS to this rule.”
The instructional booklet goes on to state that if a worker accidentally touches any one of the seven layers in a seven-layer burrito, he or she must quickly take a disinfecting chemical shower, “even if contact occurs during the lunch rush.”
A foreword to the manual written by company CEO Greg Creed assures Taco Bell workers that, as long as they follow the officially delineated standard protocol for food preparation and all internationally accepted guidelines from the National Association of Corrosion Control Engineers, they need not worry about contamination on the job. Creed admitted, however, that accidents have occurred at chain locations from time to time.
“Each Taco Bell location is equipped with sophisticated sensors able to identify and seal off any zone in which airborne concentrations of Border Sauce reach unsafe levels above 12 parts per million,” said Creed, explaining that the system would also react to any guacamole or sour cream spills. “Should the alarm be triggered, decontamination locks will isolate the clean chamber along with all those inside until an appointed Yum! Brands hazmat team arrives from corporate headquarters and is able to ascertain if the scene is salvageable.”
“Of course, our company strives to avoid these sorts of quarantine scenarios whenever possible,” Creed added.
Pressed for comment, Taco Bell representatives noted that during the month of June, customers could upgrade any of their purchases with a delicious, thirst-quenching Mountain Dew Typhoon Freeze for only $1.99.