Mysterious 'Disease-Spreading' Seed Packets from China Mailed to People in US, UK: Here's Why

Residents in the U.S. and U.K. have reported receiving strange packages containing seeds with Chinese writings.

There have been reports of strange packages containing seeds being sent to people in multiple states across the United States from China. Residents in Washington, Utah, Louisiana and Virginia have received unsolicited deliveries of seeds in the mail that are believed to have originated from China, according to officials.

"Today we received reports of people receiving seeds in the mail from China that they did not order. If you receive them - do not plant them," the Washington State Department of Agriculture said Friday. "Unsolicited seeds could be invasive, introduce diseases to local plants, or be harmful to livestock."

Package Labelled as Containing Jewelry

Seed packets from China

The agency also pointed out that the seeds are sent in sealed packages with labels marking the contents as jewelry, a tactic often used by smugglers to bypass customs, and warned people not to open the packages and report the same to the U.S. Department of Agriculture for agricultural smuggling.

Lori Culley, who lives in Tooele, Utah, told Fox 13 that she found two small packages in her mailbox Tuesday that had Chinese writings on them. "I opened them up and they were seeds," Culley told the news station. "Obviously they're not jewelry!"

Similar Seed Packages Reported by UK Residents

This comes a week after several British citizens reported receiving several similar seed packages with Chinese writings labeling its contents as jewelry like "rings" and "stud earrings." The mysterious packages were posted to customers who previously made legitimate seed purchases through sites such as Amazon marketplace and eBay.

Mrs Westerdale of Dronfield, Derbyshire, wrote about her experience on a British gardening Facebook forum and received messages from "hundreds of people saying they had the same thing happen."

seed packets from china

The Royal Horticultural Society said importing plants and seeds "poses potential risks of introducing new pests and diseases" and The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is now investigating the mysterious packages and its origins.

E-Commerce Fraud in China

According to a 2017 article by Forbes, this is an e-commerce fraud commonly committed by China-based retailers to bolster sales and rack up favorable reviews for a website.

Citing the example of a Pennsylvania woman receiving similar packages of hair ties from China she never ordered, the publication pointed out that Chinese agents ship ridiculous amounts of unordered items to people overseas to fraudulently boost sales and obtain positive feedback for their clients' products on e-commerce sites in a method that is dubbed as "brushing."

Basically, a "brushing" firm somehow gets a hold of the person's name, from legitimate orders placed on other websites, and then creates a user profile for the individual on the e-commerce site that they wish to have higher sales ratings and positive reviews on.

They then shop for an order via the fake profile and ship the items for "virtually nothing" due to subsidies and unbalanced pricing policies. Once the delivery is completed, they then leave positive reviews that on the e-commerce website as "verified."