Joining other states around the nation, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) is warning Floridians about unsolicited packages of seeds received through the mail.
As of July 27, FDACS says it has received at least 160 reports from Florida residents reporting having received suspicious seed packages. The content of the seed packages is unknown at this time.
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 been reported in multiple states including Virginia, Kansas, Washington, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Utah, and others.
“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 open them, should not plant them, should limit contact with them, and should report them immediately to both our department and USDA officials.”
Here's What State Says You Should Do: Anyone receiving unsolicited seed packages from other countries should follow these directions:
- Do not open the seed packet and avoid opening outer packaging or mailing materials, if possible
- Do not plant the seeds or discard them in trash that will be landfilled
- Limit contact with the seed package until further guidance on handling, disposal, or collection is available from the USDA
- Report the seed package to the FDACS Division of Plant Industry at 1-888-397-1517 or DPIhelpline@FDACS.gov
- Report the seed package to the USDA APHIS Anti-Smuggling Hotline [aphis.usda.gov] at 1-800-877-3835 or SITC.Mail@aphis.usda.gov
When reporting the seed package to FDACS and USDA/APHIS, please be prepared to provide one’s name, physical address, phone number, and email address for contact purposes.
TOOELE, Utah — Over the past few weeks, people in Utah have been reporting mysterious packages they’ve been receiving in the mail from China. Federal officials could pick up the investigation.
Lori Culley said she was excited to find two small packages in her mailbox on Tuesday. Although most of the writing on the outside was in Chinese, the label indicated there would be earrings inside.
“I opened them up and they were seeds,” Culley said. “Obviously they’re not jewelry!”
Culley couldn’t understand why she would be receiving mislabeled seeds from China in the mail, but at first she didn’t think much of it.
Plants and seeds are strictly regulated in Utah.
The Utah Department of Agriculture and Food will likely team up with Customs and Border Protection agents to investigate.
An employee with the Utah Department of Agriculture picked up the seeds within a few hours of learning about the incident.
Culley posted about the strange incident on Facebook, she was surprised to learn the same thing has happened to “at least 40 people” who either publicly commented or privately responded to her post.
Now Culley wonders how many people might have been so curious about the seeds that they decided to plant them.
“There was an article that I found in the UK saying this has been happening over there, and they are bad seeds, they are invasive,” Culley said. “I hope that it’s nothing too serious… don’t throw them in the garbage. Don’t plant them. Don’t touch them.”
Employees with the Utah Department of Agriculture encourage anyone who received mysterious seeds in the mail to please give them a call so they can pick up the mail for further investigation.
“I mean there’s even a possibility it could be a drug or something!” Culley said. “It just smells – it doesn’t sound right.”
The Better Business Bureau is planting a different idea.
Jane Rupp, president of BBB’s Utah chapter, said the incidents could just be a scam known as “brushing” where some companies will send you a product so they can post a fake review in your name.
“That is rather random. I don’t think I’ve heard of seeds before,” Rupp said. “The first thing to do is Google your address and see what’s out there. Numerous things will come up when you Google your address. It’s kind of scary sometimes.”
“Hopefully that’s all it is, but why?” Culley said. “We just can’t be too vigilant. We have to. There’s too much crazy stuff going on in our world anymore, and a lot of it’s coming from China.”
This story originally reported by Adam Herbets on fox13now.com.