The Ministry of Health and Care Services proposes that the Norwegian Food Safety Authority can search your kitchen. – Dramatic and intrusive, says Professor Hans Petter Graver.
– I doubt whether it can be defended on the basis of the Constitution’s rules on the protection of respect for housing and the ban on house searches, says professor at the Faculty of Law at UiO, Hans Petter Graver.
In a article in Dagbladet last week, Graver described the proposal as “sensational”. To Aftenposten, he elaborates on the criticism.
– That public inspectors should be able to gain access to searches in private homes unannounced … It is relatively dramatic and relatively intrusive, he says.
The consultation memorandum was published on 8 September last year, and the consultation has already ended. Graver is surprised that there has been no more debate around the proposal.
The proposal is “packed away”
One of the reasons why this has not happened may be the way it has been presented, Graver believes.
The memo itself is entitled «Proposals for amendments to the Food Act and the Cosmetics Act (processing of personal data, etc.)». The proposal Graver responds to comes first on page eight. It is mentioned with only a few sentences. Most of the note is about other things, such as personal information.
– It’s packed away. It is fundamentally problematic and dramatic.
What about the Constitution?
In current legislation, the Norwegian Food Safety Authority may require access to private homes. But there must be good reason to suspect infectious animal disease or plant pests that can have significant social consequences.
Today, consent is required if they are to be able to enter private homes to take samples of food. But the Ministry of Health and Care Services (HOD) now wants freer reins for the Norwegian Food Safety Authority. They will give the Norwegian Food Safety Authority the opportunity to demand access to private homes even if there is a suspicion of illness due to ingestion of or contact with food.
But it may be in violation of Article 102 of the Constitution, Graver believes. It reads as follows:
“Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, for his home and for his communication. House searches must not be carried out, as close as in criminal cases. The state governing bodies shall ensure the protection of personal integrity ».
– In the constitution, therefore, house searches are prohibited other than in criminal cases. The ban is absolute, and it also applies to the administration’s access.
Will only be used in rare cases
A legal basis for entering private homes will only be used in “very rare cases”, according to Ole Henrik Krat Bjørkholt (Labor Party). He is the Secretary of State in the HOD. Most people today help to solve cases of infection from food, he says.
– It is important that the authorities have tools to find the source of infection as quickly as possible to prevent more people from becoming seriously ill, or in the worst case, die, he says.
Strict criteria must be set for the measure to be used, says Bjørkolt. It must be necessary to prevent or resolve outbreaks of serious foodborne illness in humans.
HOD has been presented with the criticism from Graver.
– We have assumed that it will be proportionate in the rare cases it will be relevant to use it. We will take Graver’s views into account in the ministry’s further work on the proposal, says Bjørkolt.