KXAN Austin

‘Really disconcerting’: Family in Driftwood receives mystery seeds from China in mail

DRIFTWOOD, Texas (KXAN) — “Eye-opening.”

That’s how Meghan Roberts and her family would describe the experience of opening a package of seeds they did not order. It was sent to their address in Driftwood, Texas.

(Courtesy: Meghan Roberts)

“Really disconcerting,” Roberts said over the phone, but not unusal.

The family gets seeds in the mail all of the time. Roberts has a garden and they order seeds daily from multiple sources. However, when they received a very small package from China with no information about the seeds inside, it drew a red flag.

Her husband didn’t call the number on the package after they saw stories about others receiving the same seeds from the same origin — China — including departments of agriculture from other states:

For them, the most concerning thing is this supplier knows their address. They have ordered seeds online and wonder if their information was stolen.

Currently, they have the seeds sealed in a zip-lock on their porch. Roberts doesn’t want to touch them. She’s more “mad” than anything, considering it “an insult.” Why does she feel that way?

“This might just be a small drop in the bucket, a wake-up call to for us to source, buy, and shop seeds locally. Know where your products come from. Pay attention. People need to be aware,” Roberts said.

She said she reached out to the USDA and that it finally responded on Wednesday, telling her it would follow up and instructing her not to open or plant any of the seeds, and to not dispose of them.

The USDA said in a statement on its site that, “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.”

Roberts is not the only Texan to receive these packages. As of Wednesday, the Texas Department of Agriculture reported it received 187 calls and emails from residents across the state. Sig Hansen sent a ReportIt email to KXAN. In it, he said: “We received a packet about three weeks ago exactly like those shown in recent news photos, so Texas residents also are receiving the seed packets … Did not think much of it back three to four weeks ago and just threw them away.”

In a press release sent Monday, Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller urged Texans to take “extreme precaution” when receiving unsolicited seed packets from China. He advised residents not to plant the seeds as they could contain “harmful invasive species or be otherwise unsafe.”

The TDA also said it is collecting information from Texas residents and forwarding it to the USDA, as well as helping collect seed packages.

If you do receive unsolicited seed packages, you’re encouraged to report them to SITC.Mail@aphis.usda.gov.

You can find more information from the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture on its website.