INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Packets of unsolicited seeds with Chinese shipping labels “appear to be delayed packages due to COVID-19,” an Amazon spokesperson said Wednesday night in an emailed statement to News 8.
The company indicated it was working with sellers, customers and federal agencies to resolve concerns.
By Wednesday, all 50 states had issued warnings about the unidentified seeds.
At least a thousand Americans – including approximately 300 Hoosiers – reported receiving unsolicited seed packets in the mail, officials said.
Consumers in Canada, Australia and Europe had also received seeds from China, U.S. Department of Agriculture officials said Wednesday in the agency’s radio broadcast.
The deliveries perplexed recipients and sparked concerns about invasive plants, foreign disease and online “brushing” scams used to boost seller ratings.
Amazon found no link between the “delayed packages” and brushing maneuvers involving its sellers, a company spokesperson said.
The online retail giant’s statement Wednesday night raised more questions about the mysterious seed packets.
If they were simply delayed shipments, why were they sent to people who had never ordered the seeds?
Amazon officials did not immediately respond to follow-up questions from News 8.
Elizabeth Scott, a Carmel resident, said she checked her mail Tuesday and found a packet of seeds addressed to her husband, Desmond Wah.
The packet also contained a green plastic device the couple couldn’t identify.
“We order from Amazon and eBay quite frequently. We certainly did not order anything from Jiangsu, China,” Wah said, glancing at the sender information on the shipping label.
Scott had previously ordered (and received) cucumber seeds from Amazon, but said she did not recognize the seeds sent to her husband.
Cathy Stover, a Kokomo resident who found two unsolicited seed packets in her mailbox, ordered gardening supplies several months ago from a different online retailer.
She couldn’t recall ordering seeds from Amazon.
Don Robison, the Office of Indiana State Chemist’s seed administrator, urged amateur and professional gardeners to stop ordering seeds from online sellers they don’t know.
“Seeds of unknown origin are never a good idea,” he said. “If you’re ordering seeds off of Amazon, you don’t know where that’s coming from. Probably not the best idea, especially during these times.”
Hoosiers who receive the unsolicited packets are instructed not to plant, discard or destroy the seeds.
The seeds and all packaging should be sent to:
USDA APHIS PPQ
3059 North Morton Street
Franklin, IN 46131