TALLAHASSEE - 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."
As of Monday, at least 160 people had reported such packages, the department said.
Several other states have also received suspicious packages of seeds that appear to have originated from China, news outlets reported.
In North Carolina, the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services said it was contacted by numerous people who received seed shipments they did not order. The agency said the shipments were likely the product of an international internet scam known as “brushing.”
“According to the Better Business Bureau, foreign, third-party sellers use your address and Amazon information to generate a fake sale and positive review to boost their product ratings,” said Phil Wilson, director of the state's Plant Industry Division.
Similar packages have been reported in Kentucky, Virginia, Kansas, Washington, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Utah.
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