A study was conducted to investigate the efficacy of a sulfuric acid–sodium sulfate blend (SSS) against Escherichia coli O157:H7, non-O157 Shiga toxin–producing E. coli (STEC), Salmonella, and nonpathogenic E. coli biotype I on prerigor beef surface tissue. The suitability of using the nonpathogenic E. coli as a surrogate for in-plant validation studies was also determined by comparing the data obtained for the nonpathogenic inoculum with those for the pathogenic inocula. Prerigor beef tissue samples (10 by 10 cm) were inoculated (ca. 6 log CFU/cm2) on the adipose side in a laboratory-scale spray cabinet with multistrain mixtures of E. coli O157:H7 (5 strains), non-O157 STEC (12 strains), Salmonella (6 strains), or E. coli biotype I (5 strains). Treatment parameters evaluated were two SSS pH values (1.5 and 1.0) and two spray application pressures (13 and 22 lb/in2). Untreated inoculated beef tissue samples served as controls for initial bacterial populations. Overall, the SSS treatments lowered inoculated (6.1 to 6.4 log CFU/cm2) bacterial populations by 0.6 to 1.5 log CFU/cm2 (P < 0.05), depending on inoculum type and recovery medium. There were no main effects (P ≥ 0.05) of solution pH or spray application pressure when SSS was applied to samples inoculated with any of the tested E. coli inocula; however, solution pH did have a significant effect (P < 0.05) when SSS was applied to samples inoculated with Salmonella. Results indicated that the response of the nonpathogenic E. coli inoculum to the SSS treatments was similar (P ≥ 0.05) to that of the pathogenic inocula tested, making the E. coli biotype I strains viable surrogate organisms for in-plant validation of SSS efficacy on beef. The application of SSS at the tested parameters to prerigor beef surface tissue may be an effective intervention for controlling pathogens in a commercial beef harvest process.

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