Navarre resident Carmen Reynolds was a little surprised when she received a packet of black seeds in the mail that had Chinese lettering on it and mislabeled as jewelry.
She didn’t order anything from outside the United States and didn’t pull the contents out of the inner package.
“Initially, I thought it was sent to the wrong person,” Reynolds said.
A little research on the internet resulted in her learning that people in other states have been receiving similar packages.
“I read that folks in Virginia and Utah were receiving similar packages from China,” Reynolds said. “Because it was from Kazakhstan, I thought this couldn’t be part of that. But Kazakhstan is in Central Asia, and I got to thinking that my package could be related.”
She placed the package in a sealed baggie as a precaution and reached out to the United States Department of Agriculture.
Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) has received 160 reports from residents of Florida, one of several states where residents have received the mystery packages. Virginia, Kansas, Washington, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Utah are also on the list.
The FDACS warns the seeds could be part of agricultural smuggling and may also be invasive, introducing pathogens, toxins or plant and animal diseases. They could also pose a risk of foodborne illness and posse a threat to plant, animal and human health.
At this time, the FDACS is working closely with the USDA.
“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,” Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried stated in a press release. “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.”
Reynolds isn’t sure what to think of the seeds being mailed out to people in the U.S., but she knows there has to be a reason for it.
“There’s not telling why Americans are receiving these seeds made in China,” Reynolds said. “But I think these packages will be turning up all over. The question is why? Funds were expended to ship these, and there must be a reason.”
What to do if you receive an unsolicited seed package
• 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 at DPIhelpline@FDACS.gov.
• Report the seed package to the USDA APHIS Anti-Smuggling Hotline at 1-800-877-3835 or at SITC.Mail@aphis.usda.gov.