- The US Department of Agriculture has identified 14 different species of seeds within the mysterious packets residents are receiving around the US, a department official said on July 29.
- Osama El-Lissy, a deputy administrator for the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, said the department had identified 14 species as herbs and plants like hibiscus, mint, and sage.
- Since late July, people across the US and in countries including Canada and the United Kingdom have reported receiving packets of seeds they did not order, and are marked as coming from China.
- All 50 US states have now issued warnings against people planting the seeds.
A US Department of Agriculture official said in a recorded statement released on July 29 that 14 species of the seeds have been identified as herbs and other plants including hibiscus and mint.
“We have identified 14 different species of seeds, including mustard, cabbage, morning glory, and some of the herbs like mint, sage, rosemary, lavender, then other seeds like hibiscus and roses,” said Osama El-Lissy, a deputy administrator for the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.
“This is just a subset of the samples we have collected so far,” he said.
Since late July, people across the US and in countries including Canada and the United Kingdom have reported receiving packets of seeds they did not order, and are marked as coming from China.
Some of the packages’ labels indicate that the packages contain jewellery, though US state officials say they are mislabeled since they actually contain small packets of seeds.
All 50 US states have now issued warnings against planting the seeds, according to a July 29 report from CNN, and have been instructed in many instances to instead contact state or local authorities.
“People who receive seeds should not plant or handle the seeds,” Richard Ball, the New York State Commissioner of Agriculture, said in a July 27 statement.
They should “store them safely in a place children and pets cannot access,” and email the USDA “immediately.”
A spokesperson for China’s foreign ministry said earlier this week that the address labels were forged, CNN reported, and that China’s postal service has asked the US Postal Service to send packages to China for investigation.
The USDA’s El-Lissy said in a separate recorded statement on July 29 that through Wednesday evening, the department had “no evidence of the seed packets being anything but a so-called ‘brushing’ scam.”
These scams aren’t unique to the mysterious seeds. In a brushing scam, vendors selling through online retailers pay people – the so-called “brushers” – to place orders for their products and ship them to strangers who did not place the order. Then, fake reviews or even the sheer volume of shipments can help boost the seller’s sales or search-power on an e-commerce website.
By REBECCA UNGARINO