Water use for antimicrobial intervention application for beef harvest has come under increased scrutiny in recent years in an effort to enhance water conservation during beef harvest and fabrication. We determined the efficacy of beef safety interventions for reducing surrogates of the Shiga toxin–producing Escherichia coli (STEC) on beef cuts while lowering intervention-purposed water use for a small or very small beef establishment. Beef briskets, shoulder/clods, and rounds were inoculated with a gelatin-based slurry containing 6.8 ± 0.3 log CFU/g of nonpathogenic E. coli. After 30 min of attachment, inoculated cuts were treated by conventional lactic acid spray (2.5%, 55°C), lactic acid delivered by an electrostatic spray (2.5%, 55°C) handheld wand, hot water spray (82°C), or recycled hot water spray (82°C), wherein previously applied hot water was collected, thermally pasteurized to 82°C, or left untreated. One hundred milliliters of each treatment was sprayed onto marked surfaces of inoculated cuts, after which time surviving surrogate E. coli were enumerated. Lactic acid spray and electrostatic spray treatments produced greater reductions (1.0 to 1.1 log CFU/300 cm2) than hot water interventions (0.3 to 0.5 log CFU/300 cm2) (P ≤ 0.0001). Recycling of water reduced water losses by no less than 45% on recycled hot water spray–treated beef cuts. Low water beef safety interventions offer small and very small inspected beef establishments opportunities to incrementally reduce water use during intervention application, but not necessarily without loss of pathogen reduction efficacy.
Lactic acid interventions reduced pathogen surrogates by 1.0 to 1.1 log CFU/300 cm2.
Hot water recycling reduced water consumption by ≥45% for all beef cuts.
Low-water-using beef safety interventions may not yield useful pathogen reduction.