If you get an unsolicited package in the mail containing seed packets, do not open it, do not plant them or throw them away, the Hawaii and U.S. Departments of Agriculture said.
Instead, keep them in their original package and mailing envelope, including the mailing label, and contact the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service or your nearest agriculture plant quarantine office as soon as possible for further instructions.
The USDA is investigating the mailing of these “suspicious, unsolicited packages of seed that appear to be coming from China” to individuals across the nation.
The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, which is responsible for inspections of agricultural material imported from foreign countries, is working closely with the Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection, other federal agencies, and state departments of agriculture to investigate the mysterious packets.
Federal authorities are also testing the contents to determine if they contain anything that could be of concern to U.S. agriculture or the environment.
“At this time, we don’t have any evidence indicating this is something other than a ‘brushing scam’ where people receive unsolicited items from a seller who then posts false customer reviews to boost sales,” said the USDA in a news release. “USDA is currently collecting seed packages from recipients and will test their contents and determine if they contain anything that could be of concern to U.S. agriculture or the environment.”
So far, the state agriculture department said it has received five reports of these mysterious seed packets being received by Hawaii residents, and are working with them to acquire the shipments. HDOA is working with the USDA to ensure all known shipments of unsolicited seeds in Hawaii are recovered and handled appropriately.
The following are contacts for USDA-APHIS and HDOA plant quarantine offices:
Oahu – 834-3240
Maui, Molokai, Lanai – 877-5261
Kona – 326-1252
Hilo – 933-9040
Kauai – 632-2505
HDOA Plant Quarantine Offices
Oahu – 832-0566 or 837-8413
Maui, Molokai, Lanai – 872-3848
Kona – 326-1077
Hilo – 961-9393
Kauai – 241-7135
Recipients may also call the state’s toll-free pest hotline at 643-PEST (7378).