NJ urged: Don’t open those random seeds in the mail
State officials have confirmed that New Jersey residents, like folks elsewhere in the country, are receiving seeds in the mail from China that they did not order.
As of now, there's no evidence to suggest this is anything beyond an approach by unscrupulous retailers to boost sales on their end. But as officials investigate, they urge residents not to plant these seeds, or even open the sealed packaging they may arrive in.
"Sometimes the seeds are sent in packages stating that the contents are jewelry. Unsolicited seeds could be invasive, introduce diseases to local plants, or be harmful to livestock," reads an update to the New Jersey Department of Agriculture website.
On Saturday, the Department posted on Facebook about this concern in "several other states." But the website update notes officials in the Garden State have been receiving reports of these shipments as well.
The state describes the act as "agricultural smuggling." The United States Department of Agriculture on Tuesday said the act appears to be a "brushing scam" where people receive items from a seller who then posts false customer reviews in order to boost sales. The USDA said "people across the country" have received "suspicious, unsolicited packages of seed that appear to be coming from China."
The USDA said its working closely with the Department of Homeland Security, other federal agencies, and State departments of agriculture to investigate the situation.
The New Jersey Department of Agriculture offers the following tips for anyone who may receive seeds they did not order:
- DO NOT plant them and if they are in sealed packaging don't open the sealed package.
- Take a photo of the package and seeds and send the photos to the New Jersey Department of Agriculture to email@example.com and USDA SITC at SITC.Mail@aphis.usda.gov
Contact reporter Dino Flammia at firstname.lastname@example.org.