Quarantines enacted in four counties: A tiny bug is posing a threat to one of New Mexico’s biggest cash crops. An investigation by the Carlsbad Current-Argus and Roswell Daily Record found an invasive bug known as the pecan weevil could derail New Mexico’s $180 million pecan industry. The weevil has been found in pecan orchards in four counties, and quarantines have been enacted to prevent its spread. Local pecan producers worry because the quarantine restricts them from shipping pecans to areas without an infestation. READ MORE
Virtual restaurants save money: If you have ever ordered a burrito or a Hawaiian poke bowl through a food-delivery app, you may have been the patron of a virtual restaurant. No, you don’t need to put on a VR headset to experience one, and the food is quite real. What makes these new restaurants virtual is that you only find them online. A virtual restaurant model, with low overhead, is a shift away from the capital-intensive model that kills 60 percent of new restaurants in their first five years. Read more HERE and HERE.
Food service exec sentenced to prison: The owner of a Delaware food service company has been sentenced to nearly two years in federal prison for his role in a scheme to defraud the National School Breakfast and Lunch Programs. Frank D. Dolce also got three years of supervised release and was ordered to pay more than $1 million in restitution. Dolce owns and operates Primo’s Food Service, which also services charter schools in the Philadelphia area, according to an indictment filed last year. The indictment said Dolce conspired with Primo’s employees to overstate the number of students receiving subsidized meals in order to receive larger reimbursements from the USDA. READ MORE
Red Cross’ own staff steals money meant to fight Ebola: The Red Cross has admitted that millions of dollars meant for fighting the deadly outbreak of Ebola in west Africa were siphoned off by its own staff. The organization’s own investigations uncovered evidence of fraud, with more than $2.1 million lost in Sierra Leone, probably stolen by staff in collusion with local bank officials, according to a statement. In Guinea, a mixture of fake and inflated customs bills cost it $1 million. An earlier investigation found that in Liberia the prices of relief goods and payrolls were inflated to the tune of $2.6 million. READ MORE
Simmons disputes slave labor claim: Simmons Foods Inc. of Siloam Springs, Ark., has denied any association with a rehabilitation and recovery program accused of forced labor and human trafficking. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in Oklahoma filed a federal lawsuit naming Simmons Foods and six other defendants on allegations that the companies engaged in a human trafficking and forced labor scheme disguised as a rehabilitation and recovery program called Drug and Alcohol Recovery Program (DARP). The company said Simmons has no current relationship with DARP, and the claims are inconsistent with Simmons’ operational policies and core values. The ACLU alleges that the non-profit DARP forced the plaintiffs — and perhaps as many as 2,000 other individuals over a 10-year period — to work thousands of uncompensated hours. READ MORE