SAN DIEGO (KGTV) -- The San Diego Department of Agriculture is warning residents not to open unsolicited packets of seeds some people reported receiving from China.
The department says it has taken 58 calls from people reporting receiving the seeds as of Wednesday afternoon and warns anyone who receives a package to not plant the seeds or throw them away.
“The main concern with these seeds is that they were mislabeled and went through customs without an inspection. Seed from other countries might have pests or diseases that don’t exist here. The County Department of Agriculture, Weights and Measures is constantly looking for invasive pests which can be weeds, insects, or diseases. They can cause a lot of harm and we work hard to eliminate them.”
The department says unopened seed packets should be dropped off at drop boxes at 151 E. Carmel St, San Marcos 92128 or 9325 Hazard Way, San Diego 92123 address. They will then be sent to the USDA for analysis.
Anyone unable to drop off the seeds should call 760-752-4700.
Kimberly Pierce-Nolan is just one of the San Diego County residents to receive the seeds. She said she didn't think anything of it when it arrived at her Imperial Beach home a few weeks ago.
"I said 'I don’t remember ordering and I thought maybe I did, or maybe it was a free gift or something,'" she said.
She put the package aside until recently, when posts and warnings about the seeds started circulating. She said she's happy she didn't throw it away or plant them, but is nervous that her name, address and phone number were all on the package.
Reports of unidentified seeds from China have been popping up across the country. All 50 states have now issued warnings about the packages. The department believes it is all part of a “brushing” scam used to boost ratings for online vendors. The packaging label ranges from jewelry to "handmade flowers," and the seeds on the inside vary in size and shape.
“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. 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 USDA said.
Wang Wenbin, a spokesperson for China's foreign ministry, said at a briefing on Tuesday that the address labels were forged and that China Post has asked USPS to send those packages to China for investigation.