The United States Department of Agriculture and Tennessee Department of Agriculture is warning citizens about packages of seeds that are showing up in mailboxes across the state and country.
According to a TDA news release, an unspecified number of citizens have contacted the TDA to report that they have received seeds in the mail that they did not order, which the state said appear to have been shipped from China in envelopes labeled as jewelry or beads.
The TDA said in the release that they do not believe that the seeds have been sent with malicious intent, adding that imported plant materials go through rigorous testing and inspection to ensure they are not carrying any plant disease or pests that could pose an environmental threat.
The TDA said that they don't have any evidence that the seeds have gone through any required inspection.
“While we have no reason at this time to suspect that these seeds were sent with ill intention, we want to take every precaution to be sure an invasive or otherwise threatening plant species doesn’t take hold here,” TDA Commissioner Charlie Hatcher said in the news release.
The Unites States Department of Agriculture has issued a similar warning stating that the seeds may be part of a “brushing scam” where people receive unsolicited items from a seller who then posts false customer reviews to boost sales.
According to a USDA news release, the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is working with the Department of Homeland Security Customs and Border Protection and other federal and state agencies in investigating the incidents that have been reported across the country and has prompted warnings from all 50 states.
TDA asks that anyone who receives seed packages that they did not order should not handle or plant the seeds, and should instead notify TDA through form.
TDA has also recommended two ways to dispose of the seeds.
The first option, which is preferred by the state, is to seal the seeds into two plastic bags and send all packaging to the Tennessee Department of Agriculture, attention Plant Certification.
The original envelope as well as any paperwork or enclosures and the bag of seeds should also be included along with the recipient’s name, contact information and full address.
These items should be mailed to P.O. Box 40627, Nashville, TN 37204, or be sent via UPS or FedEx to 436 Hogan Road, Nashville, TN 37220.
The second option is to notify TDA through the online form, then seal the seeds into two plastic bags and place in the trash for disposal.
If the seeds have already been planted TDA recommends digging up the seeds or sprouted plants. Those plants should be double-bagged and placed in the trash, as the state does not advise to compost the seeds or sprouted plants.