The US food safety system must be modernised to ensure the safety of the nations food supply, incoming Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has claimed.

In a conference call, Vilsack said yesterday (26 January) that he wants the USDA to focus meat inspection on prevention and containment of food-borne illness.

"A modernised system would have as a goal prevention, early detection if it can't be prevented, and mitigation of any adverse impacts if something occurs," Vilsack said.

"The USDA has an incredible opportunity to promote a sustainable, safe, sufficient, and nutritious food supply for all Americans," he told reporters.

The US food safety system has come under increasing fire; with highly publicised food safety scares prompting calls for reform.

Most recently, an ongoing salmonella outbreak linked to peanut butter has sickened 501 people across 43 states. According to the latest figures from the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, the scare has been linked to eight deaths.

"We are going to work… to take steps to modernize the food safety system," Vilsack said.