Don’t open unexpected seed packages from China, warn RI, Mass. officials


PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — If you received a package of seeds in the mail that you were not expecting, Rhode Island’s top agriculture officials warn not to open them.

Rhode Island joins more than two dozen states with reports of unsolicited packages containing some type of seeds that appear to be sent from China.

Nicholas Irving of East Providence told Eyewitness News he received the small package unexpectedly last week. The label said the package was from China, he said, and there were rings inside.

“It seemed harmless,” Irving said Tuesday. “I wasn’t going to open the package of seeds. I certainly would never plant something like that. I just put it to the side like it was some sort of mistake.”

The R.I. Department of Environmental Management (DEM) says if you receive the seeds:

  • Do not plant them
  • Keep the packaging, including the label
  • Don’t open the packet if it’s not already opened
  • Wash your hands after handling it

Scott Marshall, deputy chief of the DEM’s Division of Agriculture, also encouraged Rhode Islanders to report the package to them by calling (401) 222-2781 ext. 4516 or emailing 

He said the DEM staff will take the packages and dispose of them safely.

The state does not have any official reports of the seeds, according to Marshall, however, the USDA says Rhode Island residents are among those who received the packets.

“We don’t know if the plant seeds are tainted with anything,” Marshall added. “We don’t know if they are some sort of noxious or invasive weeds.”

The DEM says it’s a fluid situation and they are awaiting more guidance from the USDA.

Later on Tuesday, the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources sent out a similar warning about the packages, saying several residents got similar packages in the mail.

“While the exact types of seeds in the packages are unknown, the seeds are thought to be invasive plant species and not believed to be harmful to humans or pets, but could pose a significant risk to agriculture or the environment,” the agency said in a news release.

In other states, like Kentucky, the seeds were labelled as jewelry with Chinese writing. Police in Ohio are also reporting the unexpected packages, suggesting they may be part of a “brushing scam.”

A “brushing scam,” according to the Better Business Bureau, originates by a usually foreign third-party seller.

“Their intention is to make it appear as though you wrote a glowing online review of their merchandise, and that you are a verified buyer of that merchandise,” the BBB website says. “They then post a fake, positive review to improve their products’ ratings.”

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


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