Mystery Seeds Sent From China Identified As Harmless Cooking Seeds


Whitehouse Police Department/Facebook/@RyanQuarlesKY/Twitter

Mysterious seeds arriving at US households from China were dubbed a potential ‘ecological disaster’. It turns out they’re harmless cooking ingredients. 

The unsolicited packages, none of which were ordered, started popping up around American homes throughout July, with residents in all 50 states reportedly receiving the bizarre seed packets.


While concerns regarding the nature of the seeds began spreading, with the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service urging recipients not to plant them, it turns out they’re entirely innocent.


As of July 29, at least 14 of the plant species have been tested by researchers. A range of ingredients emerged: mustard, cabbage, morning glory, hibiscus, rose, and herbs like mint, sage, rosemary and lavender. Deputy Administrator Osama El-Lissy told the New York Post: ‘This is just a subset of the samples we’ve collected so far.’

Carolee Bull, a professor who leads the Department of Plant Pathology and Environmental Microbiology at Penn State University, explained that people were concerned because there may be ‘plant pathogens or insects that are harboured in the seed’, The New York Times reports.


There was definitely a degree of hysteria around the seeds; Virginia’s Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services reported more than 900 emails from people who received the packages.

Posting a photo of the seeds to its Facebook page, the Whitehouse Police Department dubbed the packages part of a brushing scam.

The post explained:


We have done some researching and it does appear that these seeds are tied with an online scam called ‘brushing’. A brushing scam is an exploit by a vendor used to bolster product ratings and increase visibility online by shipping an inexpensive product to an unwitting receiver and then submitting positive reviews on the receiver’s behalf under the guise of a verified owner.

Although not directly dangerous, we would still prefer that people contact us to properly dispose of the seeds.

An Arkansas man, defying government advice, decided to plant the seeds. They produced large white fruit from orange flowers, much like squash. ‘We planted the seeds just to see what would happen,’ he said.


The USDA has since released extensive instructions on what to do with unsolicited seeds should they arrive at your door, which you can read here.


The agency earlier added that it’s collaborating with US Customs and Border Protection to ‘prevent the unlawful entry of prohibited seeds and protect US agriculture from invasive pests and noxious weeds’.

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Topics: News, China, Now, US News, USA


New York Post and 3 others
  1. New York Post

    Mystery seeds from China identified as vegetables, herbs and flowers

  2. The New York Times

    27 States Issue Warnings About Seed Packets From China

  3. Whitehouse Police Department/Facebook


  4. 5NEWS

    Arkansas Man Plants Mysterious Seeds from China Being Sent Across the U.S.

Cameron Frew
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