TALLAHASSEE, July 29, 2020—The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is warning Floridians about unsolicited seed packages received through the mail.
The seed packets, which may arrive unexpectedly in packages bearing Chinese characters with the name China Post and may be labeled as jewelry, have been reported in multiple states including Virginia, Kansas, Washington, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Utah and others.
As of July 28, FDACS has received at least 631 reports from Florida residents who reported they have received suspicious seed packages.
The content remains unknown at this time until they are tested by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, the lead regulatory body on this matter, believes the seeds to be part of a “brushing” scam where unsolicited items are sent to post false customer reviews and boost online sales.
“Plant seeds from unknown sources may introduce dangerous pathogens, diseases or invasive species into Florida, putting agriculture and our state’s plant, animal and human health at risk,” said Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried. “Anyone receiving these suspicious seed packets should not plant them, but should report it to our department immediately, so that our inspectors can safely collect them for analysis.”
Upon receiving seed packages from recipients, the USDA will test the contents to determine if a risk is posed to agriculture or the environment.
The introduction of plant seeds into the United States is tightly regulated by the USDA.
Seeds of unknown origin may constitute agricultural smuggling, may be invasive, may introduce pathogens, toxins or plant and animal diseases, may pose a risk of foodborne illness and may pose a threat to plant and animal health.
FDACS is continuing to work closely to receive additional guidance from the USDA and APHIS, in consultation with U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
Anyone receiving unsolicited seed packages from other countries should follow these directions:
- Do not open the seed packet or any other outer packaging or mailing materials, if possible.
- Place seed packet AND mailing materials into a sealable plastic bag.
- Do not plant the seeds or discard them in trash that will go to a landfill.
- Report the seed package to the DFACS Division of Plant Inventory at 1-888-397-1517 or DPIhelpline@FDACS.gov.
- After reporting the seed package, an inspector from the FDACS Division of Plant Industry will contact seed recipients to schedule a safe, contactless collection of the seeds, packaging and mailing materials.
When reporting seed packages to FDACS and USDA/APHIS, please be prepared to provide name, physical address, phone number and email address for contact and seed collection purposes.
Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services news release