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FDACS Asking Floridians to Report Seed Packets in their Mail from China

UPDATE as of 8.3.20:

Despite rumors that they could be agents of bioterrorism, it turns out they’re run-of-the-mill seeds in the mail. Mustard, cabbage, morning glory, mint, sage, rosemary, lavender, hibiscus, and rose were among the types identified. They were found by the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

Testing continues on thousands of samples turned in by recipients. So far the USDA hasn’t found evidence indicating that the packages were suspicious. So far, they believe it is a scam by online retailers to pump up their e-commerce seller ratings.

Suspicious Seeds in Mail

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) is warning Floridians about suspicious 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 been reported in multiple states including Virginia, Kansas, Washington, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Utah, and others.
As of July 27, FDACS has received at least 160 reports from Florida residents reporting having received suspicious seed packages in the mail. The content of the seed packages is unknown at this time.
The introduction of plant seeds into the United States is tightly controlled by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Seeds of unknown origin may mean agricultural smuggling. They may also be invasive, may introduce pathogens, toxins, or plant and animal diseases that may pose a risk of foodborne illness. This of course may pose a threat to plant, animal, and human health. FDACS is working closely to receive instruction from the USDA and its Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), the lead on this issue, 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 open them, should not plant them, should limit contact with them, and should report them immediately to both our department and USDA officials.”

What to Do

Anyone receiving suspicious seed packages in the mail from other countries should follow these directions:
  • Do not open the seed packet and avoid opening packaging or mailing materials, if possible
  • Do not plant the seeds or put them in the 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 at 1-800-877-3835 or SITC.Mail@aphis.usda.gov
Lastly, make sure to report the seed package in your mail to FDACS and USDA/APHIS.  You will need to provide your name, address, phone number, and email address for contact purposes.
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