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Florida warns of ‘suspicious’ seed packages

Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services
Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services

Florida’s agriculture secretary is raising concerns about packages of seeds bearing Chinese characters and the name China Post that people are receiving unsolicited in the mail.

The Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is asking Floridians to report the “suspicious seed packages,” which might also be labeled as jewelry.

“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,” Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried said in a prepared statement. “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 (U.S. Department of Agriculture) officials.”

The state is working on the issue with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

“The content of the seed packages is unknown at this time,” a news release from the state department said. “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, animal, and human health,” the release added.

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
  • 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
  • Report the seed package to the FDACS Division of Plant Industry 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

As of Monday, at least 160 people had reported such packages, the department said. Similar packages have been reported in Virginia, Kansas, Washington, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Utah.