Tallahassee, Fla. — The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) is continuing to warn Floridians about unsolicited packages of seeds received through the mail. The seed packets, which may arrive unexpectedly in packages bearing Chinese characters, may bear the name China Post, and may be labeled as jewelry, have now been reported in most U.S. states.
As of July 30, FDACS has received at least 1,209 reports from Florida residents reporting having received suspicious seed packages. The content of the seed packages remains unknown at this time, until testing by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) takes place.
UPDATE: On July 30, the USDA notified FDACS that objects other than seeds, such as spoons, forks, and other small items, have been reported in some unsolicited packages. The USDA believes the packages to be part of a “brushing” scam, where unsolicited items are sent in order to post false customer reviews and boost online sales. Updated directions on how to report and handle all unsolicited packages are below.
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 its Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), in consultation with U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
“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 – and any other foreign objects in unsolicited packages should be reported to the USDA immediately.”
UPDATED: What To Do: Anyone receiving unsolicited packages from other countries should follow these directions:
- Do not open the seed packet and avoid opening outer packaging or mailing materials, if possible.
- Place the seed packet AND mailing materials into a sealable plastic bag – this is important to determining the origin of the seeds.
- Do not plant the seeds or discard them in trash that will be landfilled.
- UNOPENED PACKAGES and packages containing objects OTHER THAN SEEDS: report immediately to the USDA Anti-Smuggling hotline at 1-800-877-3835 or SITC.firstname.lastname@example.org.
- OPENED PACKAGES containing seeds: report to the FDACS Division of Plant Industry online at FDACS.gov/SeedByMail. Package recipients can either drop off the package at their local UF/IFAS Extension county office, or schedule a safe, contactless pickup of the seeds, packaging, and mailing materials by an FDACS Inspector.
- Recipients with questions other than seed reporting can contact the Division of Plant Industry at 1-888-397-1517 or DPIhelpline@FDACS.gov
When reporting the seed package to FDACS and USDA/APHIS, please be prepared to complete a simple form and provide one’s name, physical address, phone number, and email address for contact and seed collection purposes.