Do you ever wake up in a cold sweat when you dream about all the places that could harbor microbes in your food processing plant? That’s not surprising, since chronic contamination is often the root cause of food quality and safety problems. Making sure your company has a plan to Identify and clear up microbial hotspots may help you get a good night’s sleep.

When considering chronic contamination, the most difficult places to reach often present the greatest risks. If you can’t clearly see an area or piece of equipment, it is probably difficult to clean and sanitize as well.


PSSI can help you audit your plant to identify potential sources of chronic contamination, then develop an action plan for eliminating them. Here are a few areas that are commonly at risk for chronic contamination:

  • Equipment that cannot be disassembled
  • Drive gears and sprockets that are not accessible
  • Hard-mounted flat scraper bars
  • Gaskets and seals inside food contact equipment
  • Table legs not securely welded to the floor
  • Product guide rails
  • Cooling units
  • Interiors of coolers and freezers
  • Deeply scratched plastics that contact food
  • Drains
  • Overhead vents


Understanding the source is just the first step in addressing chronic contamination. Your team should follow these four steps to attack and eliminate microbial hotspots:

  1. Set up cleaning protocols. Often deep cleaning is needed to resolve chronic contamination. PSSI is experienced in setting up problem-area cleaning protocols. Our sanitation experts can work with your equipment manufacturer to determine how to fully disassemble components for cleaning.
  2. Use the proper tools. An enzymatic cleaning chemical is often highly effective in removing buildups and biofilms. A clean-out-of-place (COP) tank is essential for soaking and cleaning small equipment parts. In some cases, PSSI develops customized solutions to adequately clean difficult areas such as overhead chain drives and conveyor belts.
  3. Evaluate and adjust. Involve your quality assurance team to continually monitor problem spots. You may need to step up your monitoring program with more frequent swab samples. Review your master sanitation schedule (MSS) and increase cleaning frequency if needed.
  4. Consider lasting solutions. Once the contaminated area is under control, look for ways to prevent recontamination. Consider facility repairs, new equipment or updates in procedures. If your plant has old or outdated equipment that cannot be cleaned effectively, the best long-term solution may be replacing that equipment. And don’t overlook training for the cleaning crew. Procedural drift could be the culprit when hotspots recur. That’s why PSSI conducts ongoing, individualized training to ensure its employees follow all sanitation protocols to the letter.

PSSI can help you address sources of chronic contamination and reduce your risk of a food safety incident. For more information visit