Content of the article continued
Pruisner said she received 297 reports of seeds received on Thursday afternoon.
The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) of the United States Department of Agriculture directs state agencies to collect the seeds and send them to it for analysis. The agency said Wednesday it had identified 14 different species of seeds, but noted it was still early in the process.
The Agriculture Ministry said the packages were likely part of a “brush-off” scam, in which people receive unsolicited items from a seller who then posts fake positive customer reviews to boost sales.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection are also investigating the origin of the seeds. The Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said the packages appeared to have been tampered with.
The packages have also been reported in Canada, where the Ontario Provincial Police on Wednesday posted a warning on Facebook against “foreign seeds mailed from China or Taiwan.”
The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services said it had received 1,209 seed reports, with 300 phone calls as of Thursday alone.
State departments of agriculture have also reported postmarked packages from Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, although most are believed to be from China.
Most states require people to report packages to the National Department of Agriculture, which will then send inspectors to collect them.
Sadie Crawford, who works in marketing in Townsend, Massachusetts, said she had just ordered watermelon, ivy, and morning glory seeds from Amazon.com Inc, so assumed the two packages she had receipts were simply mislabeled.