British Columbia

Samosa sales stoppage pits UNBC student group against food service provider

The question of whether or not samosas can be served at room temperature has pitted a student group against the official food service provider on the Prince George campus of the University of Northern British Columbia.

'You can't tell a group of people they cannot sell samosas, a food from their culture'

According to Northern Health, samosas are not considered "shelf-stable" and must be prepared and served in temperature-controlled environments. (Suresh Doss/CBC)

The question of whether or not samosas can be served at room temperature has pitted a student group against the official food service provider on the Prince George campus of the University of Northern British Columbia.

Hira Rashid, VP internal of the South Asian Student Society, says her group was fundraising by selling samosas on campus when the official food service provider at the university, Chartwells, told them to stop due to "temperature control" issues related to food safety. 

"You know, as a kid from South Asia, we've eaten samosas [at room temperature] our entire lives," Rashid said.

The club asked Chartwells for guidance on how they could continue to sell the food, but Rashid said they never received a response, so the fundraiser ended.

A few weeks later, Chartwells set-up a pop-up booth to sell their own samosas on campus, upsetting Rashid.

"You can't tell a group of people they cannot sell samosas, a food from their culture, for their club, and then turn around and profit from the same food," she said. 

"It was super inappropriate."

Hira Rashid said several student groups have come into conflict with Chartwells over food sales on campus. (Hira Rashid)

Samosas a 'high-risk food': Chartwells

Chartwells spokesperson Stephanie Baxter says the only reason the student samosa sale was shut down was food safety.

"Chartwells is responsible for all food served at the university and we are required to set up the guidelines set up by Northern Health," she explained.

"Samosas, which are considered a cooked food, are considered to be a high-risk food."

Chartwells, which is owned by the multinational Compass Group, is responsible for food services at several campuses across Canada. (Andrew Kurjata/CBC)

A spokesperson for Northern Health confirmed that in order for samosas to be sold, they would have to prepared in an approved kitchen and transported and sold in a temperature-controlled environment.

Chartwells was selling their samosas under a heat lamp.

As for Rashid's assertion that Chartwell's was profiting off of another culture, Baxter said an employee of South Asian background had prepared the samosas sold at UNBC.

'They are very strict'

Rashid said the incident was the latest in a series of problems student clubs have had with Chartwells.

"They are essentially stopping cultural student groups from practicing their culture," she said, adding that sharing food is a big part of South Asian culture. 

"They're supposed to be a student supportive organization, yet they are very strict." 

She said she was especially frustrated because her club had asked for guidelines on how to safely sell samosas and not received a response.

Baxter said all of Chartwells rules for what can and can't be sold by student groups are based on food safety.

"Given the many different challenges associated with selling cooked food, it was determined in the past that only bake sales would be permitted," she explained.

Baxter said Chartwells would be reaching out to the South Asian Student Society to try and reach a resolution.

With files from Jordan Tucker.

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