08/10/2012 12:18 EDT | Updated 10/10/2012 05:12 EDT

Bear Meat At Fredericton Restaurant Nets $400 Fine

The owner of a Fredericton restaurant has pleaded guilty to charges related to having decomposing bear meat in her restaurant's kitchen last winter.

Le Binh Tina Tu, 61, who owns the Mandarin Palace Restaurant on Forest Hill Road, was fined a total of $400 and ordered to pay $65 in surcharges.

Tu had been scheduled to go to trial on Friday on two charges under the New Brunswick Fish and Wildlife Act, dating back to December.

But the Crown brought the case forward early and on Aug. 2, Tu changed her plea to guilty of possession of wildlife on the premises of the Mandarin Palace Restaurant.

The Crown withdrew the second charge of unlawfully having possession of a bear carcass and instead laid a new charge of having possession of a bear carcass without the proper transfer permit, to which Tu also pleaded guilty.

Illegal possession of wildlife carries a penalty of up to a $2,000 fine and seven days in jail.

Routine inspection

The bear meat was discovered in a cooler at the Chinese restaurant during a routine inspection by the Department of Health on Dec. 20.

An inspection record posted on the government's website on Dec. 21 said, "Food must be purchased from an approved source. Wild animals are not approved."

The restaurant was immediately closed for cleaning due to concerns the decomposing meat could have contaminated other contents in a cooler and the Department of Natural Resources was called in to investigate.

The restaurant reopened after a few days with Department of Health approval. Department officials said at the time that the health risk to people was very low.

The department says only about 1.5 per cent of black bears carry trichinella, a parasite that may be transmitted to humans through consumption of raw or undercooked infected bear meat.

The department said in December it did not have evidence that the bear was suffering from the disease.