Popular Fairbanks restaurant pleads guilty to misleading meat labeling

The interior of the Pump House restaurant, in Fairbanks, Alaska.
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ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - A popular Fairbanks restaurant has pleaded guilty to intentionally mislabeling menu items as Alaska Reindeer.

The State Department of Law says The Pump House menu, both in-restaurant and online, advertised that it served “Reindeer Tenderloin,” but that the restaurant was in fact serving elk meat from New Zealand.

The plea and announcement of fines was made in a press release from the Alaska Department of Law. The release says an interview with an employee of the river-side restaurant indicated that during that employee’s tenure, the restaurant had never served reindeer. A restaurant manager confirmed that the restaurant deceptively advertised the dish as reindeer instead of elk.

The menu’s description of the Reindeer Tenderloin described Alaskan Reindeer as “similar to caribou and raised in Western Alaska where they are harvested by the Native people.”

The criminal charges, filed just a week ago, on August 2, alleged that the restaurant violated food labeling requirements since 2013.

The Pump House, LLC, parent company of the restaurant, pleaded guilty Tuesday and agreed to pay $50,000 in criminal fines, and to donate $10,532, the amount of its profit from the sale of the dish, amongst three Fairbanks-area nonprofits: The Fairbanks Community Foodbank, Stone Soup Café, and the Salvation Army Fairbanks. The company also issued a public apology in a local newspaper.

The public apology, published in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner on Saturday, August 6, says the restaurant served New Zealand Red Deer Tenderloin, and that the restaurant was informed that the mislabeling was a violation of state and federal law in August of 2015.

The apology said that the menu was immediately corrected when it was brought to the company's attention.

The Department of Environmental Conservation's Environmental Crimes Unit investigated the mislabeling.

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