A Fairbanks restaurant that knowingly sold New Zealand elk as reindeer pleaded guilty Tuesday after being criminally charged with violating Alaska food safety laws.
As part of a plea agreement for the misdemeanor charge, The Pump House LLC agreed to pay $50,000 in criminal fines after an investigation revealed the restaurant had been serving elk in place of a “reindeer tenderloin” since at least 2013, according to a statement from the Alaska Department of Law.
The restaurant also agreed to split $10,532 in donations to three Fairbanks nonprofits as restitution and issue a public apology in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.
Assistant Attorney General Carole Holley said in an interview Tuesday that during a routine health inspection an investigator noted that reindeer was listed on the menu but there was no reindeer meat actually in the restaurant. Employee interviews, including with the restaurant manager, later confirmed that the restaurant had sold elk in lieu of Alaska reindeer.
In its public apology notice printed Saturday, the restaurant acknowledged it learned such a practice was in violation of state and federal law in August 2015. The notice said the restaurant immediately corrected the menu.
Alaska’s food labeling laws serve as both a public health service, indicating possible allergy concerns, and to eliminate unfair business advantages.
The restaurant currently lists a “red deer tenderloin” on its menu, served with “berry demi-glace, sweet potato bacon hash and chef’s vegetables.”
Attorneys for The Pump House declined to comment Tuesday.
Related stories from around the North:
Canada: Addressing northern food insecurity, Blog by Heather Exner-Pirot
Finland: Rebranding ‘superfoods of the North, Yle News
Greenland: Researchers must be honest with Arctic peoples about food contaminants: doctor, Eye on the Arctic
Sweden: Demand ups Sweden’s reindeer meat prices, Radio Sweden
United States: Can traditional Alaska Native foods be sold? A clash of legal, cultural opinions, Alaska Dispatch News