The classic “fly in my soup” line has been comically played out dozens of times on TV and in films. But in reality, food contamination is no laughing matter.

Restaurants live or die by the safety of their food. A single contamination claim can be devastating to a restaurant or a food provider’s reputation. Thanks to social media, news of such claims can spread like wild fire. Current and potential customers take contamination claims seriously. Even if it is an isolated case and might never happen again – perception is often reality in these cases. Beyond damage to reputation, there is the cost of fines and, potentially, law suits.

That’s why restaurants should have a food contamination crisis plan. In fact, such plans are now required under new amendments to the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).

Food Safety Magazine recently offered a four-step plan for restaurants and food providers to assure that they are protected.

  1. Acknowledge the Risk to Your Business

Many food providers operate under the hope that a food safety crisis simply cannot happen to them. However, there has been a tremendous increase in the number of food contamination and adulteration claims – generally, one such claim is reported to FDA every day.

  1. Establish a Team

If your company doesn’t currently have a food contamination crisis team, you need to establish one. With a team in place, the company can respond not only with the speed necessitated by a food contamination crisis but also in a thoughtful manner.

  1. Create a Written Plan

The crisis management team needs to create a written plan, ahead of any actual crisis, outlining the process for handling various contamination or adulteration scenarios.

  1. Put your Plan to the Test

Test what you’ve written. Engage in dry runs. Create hypotheticals and brainstorm potential responses. Review the plan – ideally each quarter but at a minimum each year.

The bottom line: Your food business deserves to have such a plan in place. The potential costs are simply too high not to invest the time into creating one.