So far, the USDA said some of the packages contain vegetables like cabbage and herbs like mint, sage, rosemary, and lavender.
After thousands of Americans received mysterious packages of seeds unsolicited from China this summer, Amazon has changed its policy to ban sales of plants and seeds imported from outside the U.S.
The plants and seeds’ seller policy was updated Sept. 2, according to the company’s website, and was first reported by the Wall Street Journal. As part of the change, sales of seeds, plant products and plants by non-U.S. residents are prohibited.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection, Postal Service and other state and federal agencies are investigating the mysterious seed packages along with online retailers, the USDA said.
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The USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service says that as of Aug. 31, it collected 8,507 packages from 50 states and “completed examinations of 2,410 of those packets and identified a total of 321 different species of seed.”
In a statement to USA TODAY on Sunday, Amazon said, “Moving forward, we are only permitting the sale of seeds by sellers who are based in the U.S.”
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On Amazon’s updated seller policy, the retail giant said sellers “must comply with all applicable federal laws when selling plant and seed products. You must also comply with state and local laws applicable to the jurisdiction into which your products are sold as well as the jurisdiction from which you ship.”
The policy also notes “plants, plant products and seeds may not be imported from outside of the United States.”
According to the USDA, consumers who received unsolicited seeds “may want to consider changing their password on the vendor’s website” and “may also want to contact the e-commerce company if they are concerned that their account was compromised in any way or to complain about the fraudulent use of their personal information.”
Consumers also are advised not to plant the mysterious seeds and to keep them until they can be collected.
“We are not aware of any human health risks at this time. In an abundance of caution, people should wear gloves and limit touching the material,” the USDA said. “People who believe they are experiencing a health issue as a result of touching these seeds should contact their medical provider.”
On Tuesday, Walmart announced a $98-a-year membership plan to rival Amazon Prime.
Along with seeds, the Better Business Bureau has also been warning consumers to be on the lookout for strange unwanted packages arriving on doorsteps. “Free” Amazon deliveries have been arriving addressed to residents who didn’t order them – all part of an ongoing “brushing scam.”
According to the Wall Street Journal, which reported reviewing an email to foreign sellers, Amazon’s removal of seed offers is to take place in stages and foreign merchants who ship their seeds directly to U.S. customers will have their offers removed immediately. For orders fulfilled by Amazon with inventory stored in Amazon warehouses, the offers will be removed starting Sept. 30, according to the email.
Prohibited Amazon listings
According to Amazon’s seller policy, the following are examples of prohibited listings. Plants, plant products, and seeds that are:
- designated by the USDA as “noxious” or similarly classified by applicable state or local government authorities;
- subject to federal, state, or local government quarantines (such as the USDA’s citrus canker quarantine or the Washington State grape virus quarantine);
- taken, possessed, transported or sold in violation of the Lacey Act;
- dangerous or fatal when touched or consumed (such as the pong pong seed);
- imported from outside of the U.S. or sold by a non-U.S. resident; and,
- not in compliance with all other legal, regulatory, and licensing requirements.
Follow USA TODAY reporter Kelly Tyko on Twitter: @KellyTyko
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