Those unsolicited seed packages you may or may not have seen popping up on the timeline, and/or in your mailbox, have now resulted in warning messages being issued in all 50 states.
CNN has compiled the warning messages from each state here, noting that officials in the U.S. are stating that the packages "appear" to originate from China. Examples of the packages seen in photos shared by multiple U.S. agencies show labeling that includes the official postal service of China. A spokesperson for China's foreign ministry, however, has said the labels are fabricated. Furthermore, the China Post has asked U.S. mail authorities to transfer those packages to their care for additional investigation.
A statement from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) earlier this week stated that its Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) division was working in tandem with the Department of Homeland Security's Customs and Border Protection, as well as other federal agencies, on an investigation into these seed packages. A USDA spokesperson also explained that the appearance of packages in multiple regions across the U.S. is most likely part of a "brushing scam" used to misleadingly boost online reviews for a product.
"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," a rep said on Tuesday. "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."
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has also alerted people to the packages, similarly urging recipients to refrain from planting the contents:
For those who end up getting one of these packages in the mail, it has been advised that contact is made immediately to one's respective state plant regulatory official and/or the APHIS State plant health director.