Taco Bell's Rat Poisoning Case Just Came To A Screeching Halt

Few restaurant chains are as inextricably linked to American pop culture as Taco Bell. According to its website, Taco Bell was the first fast food eatery to promote a major motion picture, "Batman," in 1989, and it also sponsored the first-ever ESPN X Games in 1995. In fact, Statista reports that Taco Bell is one of the most profitable companies owned by YUM! Brands, which also owns KFC, Pizza Hut, and The Habit Burger Grill. In 2020, Taco Bell raked in nearly $2 billion in revenue. But with such popularity, there are also bound to be some problems. 

Although Taco Bell is known for a torrid history of food scandals, one of the most alarming has recently taken place with an alleged poisoning at a Colorado location (via TODAY). According to CBS News Colorado, the trouble began on Sunday, January 15 around lunchtime when a 63-year-old customer ordered three bean burritos and a soda at the Taco Bell at 16776 East Smoky Hill Road in Aurora, Colorado. When employees told him the soda dispenser was out of order, the customer requested a fourth burrito to stand in for his soda. After some alleged arguing from the customer, the staff gave him the additional burrito free of charge.

Later in the evening, the customer experienced a "burning sensation" and became ill. He called 911 and was hospitalized.

There is no current evidence of a purposeful poisoning

CBS News Colorado reported on January 18 that the customer pointed his fingers at the burritos. In fact, according to Arapahoe County Sheriff's Office, the customer filed a complaint while at the hospital and allowed the authorities to enter his home to look over the remainder of the food, where they located a "greenish-gray substance."

Images from National Capital Poison Center indicate that rat poison can be manufactured in such a color, and subsequent lab tests revealed that it was indeed rat poison in the man's partially-eaten burrito. So, what exactly happened here?

Officers and the local health department were sent to the Taco Bell in question, forcing it to close, discard all its food, and present video footage to authorities, yet no evidence was found that any employee put rat poison in the customer's food. A more recent report by CBS News Colorado states that authorities still don't know how the rat poison ended up in the burrito.

Notably, the Sheriff's Department has attempted to reach the customer to gather more information, but with no success. Interestingly, the news outlet does mention that the customer has been involved in "dozens" of lawsuits throughout the last 30 years.

When CBS reached out to Taco Bell for comment, they stated "The safety of customers and team members is a priority. The franchisee who owns and operates this location has informed us that they are working with local authorities in their investigation." As of now, there is no evidence pointing at Taco Bell employees as the culprit.