Health inspectors swoop in to halt student-run samosa sales at McGill

"There's tens of thousands of students on campus, and samosas were really the one thing that really united the student body," said one student after learning the student society has cancelled all food sales, for now.

City says samosas were being sold by hand at room temperature, contravening provincial guidelines

McGill University student clubs regularly sell samosas on campus to raise funds and gain exposure. (Mustafa Fakih/Facebook)

If you're looking for a cheap samosa this week at McGill University, you're out of luck.

The fried pastries filled with potatoes and other vegetables — an Indian staple — are a huge hit on campus, sold by student clubs for about $1 each.

But last Tuesday, city food inspectors shut down a samosa sale at Burnside Hall on McGill's downtown campus.

A spokesperson for the City of Montreal said inspectors were at McGill to conduct a regular inspection of a campus cafeteria when they noticed the samosa sale.

Since the samosas include cooked vegetables, they "must be sold hot or cold, and not at room temperature," the spokesperson said. They also must not be served by hand, to reduce the risk of contamination, and customers must be offered utensils to eat them with.

The inspectors issued the student club with a warning and said if any club fails to comply with the province's food standards, it could be fined thousands of dollars.

"I'm really upset they're gone," said McGill student Declan Gleason.

"There's tens of thousands of students on campus, and samosas were really the one thing that really united the student body."

The samosas are purchased from a distributor and are often sold for $1 each. (Phillip Mercier/Facebook)

The Students' Society of McGill University, a student-run umbrella organization for campus clubs, has cancelled all food sales for now.

"You look at people getting random stomach aches on campus, [and] you chalk it up to stress," said SSMU VP External Adam Gwiazda-Amsel on CBC Montreal's Daybreak.

"But if you took a deeper look, like some of those are going to be caused by improper food management."

He said students get the samosas from a distributor in a large cardboard box, and sell them out of that box, often serving them on pages taken from student newspapers.

The student union is now creating new guidelines that groups will have to follow if they are selling or preparing food.

They will include issuing permits for food sales, using gloves and hair nets and keeping samosas warm using a hot plate.

He said it would cost clubs $25 per samosa sale through a cost-sharing agreement with the SSMU. He said groups should be able to absorb that cost, although he acknowledged "it's definitely a bit of a barrier" for smaller clubs whose sales just break even.

Until then, students are mourning the dearth of the fried Indian snacks on Reddit and a Facebook group dedicated to letting the student body know where they can find their "mose."

This meme was posted to the McGill subreddit, decrying the lack of samosas on campus this week. (Friedrice1212/Reddit)

"The McGill community is largely multicultural, and we have people from different ethnicities, and so samosas are a really big part of that," said student Arshia Kakkar.

"It means a lot to us — and yeah, we're really passionate about it."

Gwiazda-Amsel says the student-run samosa sales should be back sometime next month with the new guidelines in place.

Listen to the story on CBC Montreal's Daybreak here:

With reporting by Jennifer Yoon from CBC Montreal's Daybreak