Cleaning, Sanitation, Hygiene / Food Safety

Sanitation’s 10 Most Wanted

According to the experts at PSSI, these are the 10 most common hotspots for your sanitation team to watch out for.

By Steve Weiland, PSSI Corporate Microbiologist

If the food processing industry had a most-wanted list for dangerous offenders, disease-causing microbes certainly would be at the top. These cleverly hidden criminals are always looking to contaminate products and interfere with food safety.

Difficult-to-access areas and equipment harbor the greatest risk for microbial hotspots, leading to potentially chronic problems with food safety compliance. To stay on top of sanitation, know the places where microbes lurk.

These are the 10 most common hotspots for your sanitation team to watch out for:

Cooling units and freezer interiors
Bacteria aren’t usually associated with cold temperatures, but Listeria and other cold-tolerant bacteria can still grow at refrigerator temperatures. Refrigerating and freezing units need to be sanitized regularly.

Equipment that cannot be disassembled
Cleaning this equipment requires a sanitation expert with the expertise, tools and methods to adequately and safely clean machines in place.

Hard-mounted flat scraper bars
Anything hard-mounted easily harbors dangerous microbial activity. The key here is to make the cleaning routine standard for every piece of equipment.

Table legs not securely welded to the floor
Regularly inspect table corners and attachment points and look for cracks or gaps that could create entry points for bacteria. Repair or replace the equipment causing the problem.

Drains are the perfect habitat for bacteria, due to the warm and moist environment. In one study, one-third of drains tested positive for Listeria. Avoid issues by routinely and meticulously cleaning drains.

Overhead Vents
Overhead vents are out of sight, which means they can be out of mind, too. Be sure to inspect and clean regularly.

Product guide rails
Guide rails that directly contact the product are important targets on your microbial hotspot checklist.

Drive gears and sprockets
Chronic contamination problems can occur if uneven edges are overlooked during sanitation.

Gaskets and seals inside equipment
Routinely inspect gaskets and seals to ensure that pieces are intact and meet food safety standards.

Deeply scratched plastics that contact food
Deep scratches are the perfect environment for microbes to hide in. Repetitive contact with food is risky if these areas aren’t adequately cleaned and routinely replaced.

Additional Tips

Follow this good rule of thumb when managing microbial hotspots: If you cannot see or reach an area, you likely cannot clean it consistently nor sanitize it properly. A professional, detail-oriented sanitation team can overcome these challenges.

Develop a plan for routine sanitation. Review the Master Sanitation Schedule (MSS) and determine if the cleaning frequency needs to be increased and/or modified. Make facility repairs, buy new equipment or change equipment teardown procedures if you find problem areas. If old or outdated equipment is essentially uncleanable, the best long-term solution may be to replace it.

Take a holistic view of your plant’s situation and align with production goals to maximize long-term results and avoid risk due to chronic microbial contamination.

Editor’s Note: This post was sponsored by PSSI. For more information visit