The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) is warning 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 maybe labeled as jewelry, have been reported in multiple states including Virginia, Kansas, Washington, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Utah, and others.
So far, there have been 160 reports from Florida residents reporting having received suspicious seed packages.
The content of the seed packages is unknown at this time.
FDACS says the 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 pose a threat to plant, animal, and human health.
They are working closely to receive guidance from the USDA and its Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), the lead regulatory body on this issue, in consultation with U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
Officials say if anyone receives an unsolicited seed package from another country they 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 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 [aphis.usda.gov] at 1-800-877-3835 or SITC.Mail@aphis.usda.gov