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Multiple states issue warnings against suspicious seeds

People around the United States are receiving mysterious seeds in the mail mislabeled as jewelry, earbuds, or toys. A Johnson County resident reported receiving one of these packages designated as jewelry. Submitted photo.

By Meg Dickens
Staff Reporter

People all around the United States are reporting receiving unsolicited seeds in the mail. According to various news reports and social media outlets, the seeds appear to be coming from China and arrive in mislabeled packaging, most commonly labeled as jewelry, earbuds, or toys. Tennessee is among an estimated 27 states that are now issuing warnings not to touch or plant these seeds.  The Tomahawk Newspaper has also received a report from Johnson County resident Nancy Shounds after she received a package of these seeds. 

“I received a package that I did not order, labeled jewelry, but it contained seeds,” Shounds told the Tomahawk.

According to the Tennessee Department of Health, one major concern is that these seeds have most likely not gone through proper testing channels required for all imported plant materials because of the labeling.  Testing ensures that seeds do not carry any disease or pest that could be dangerous to people or the environment. The type of seeds varies, which makes it difficult to identify specifics at this time. 

“We expect to have more information soon,” the Tennessee Department of Health announced. “In the meantime, if you receive seeds you did not order, do not plant or handle them. Seal the seeds into two plastic sandwich bags and hang onto them
until we receive APHIS guidance.”

Many people have expressed concerns, but the North Carolina Department of Agriculture revealed another theory. According to a recent press release, NC officials believe this may be part of an international internet scam known as brushing. In this scam, select retailers purchase their products through a fake account, associated with a real name and address, and then use this to create false positive reviews. The Identity Theft Resource Center identifies brushing as a type of identity theft.

According to the New York Times, the US Agriculture Department’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service has been notified about the suspicious seed packages. For now, residents are urged to stay vigilant and report any suspicious seeds to APHIS at aphis.usda.gov. Keep an eye out for updates from the Tennessee Department of Agriculture at tn.gov/agriculture or on Facebook @TNAgriculture.