August 6, 2020

CFIA update on unrequested packages of seeds

August 6, 2020 – Ottawa, Ontario

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is committed to protecting the health of Canada’s plant resources, our environment and our economy.

To date, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has received reports from more than 750 individuals across all Canadian provinces who have received unrequested packages of unknown seeds. There have been no reports of unsolicited seeds in the territories.

In collaboration with the Canadian public, the CFIA continues to collect information on these unsolicited seed packages, including information about the contents, on the sender, return address (if any), postmark, and how the package was labelled.

Information that CFIA has collected to date includes:

  • The packages are postmarked as being from several different countries and many are declared as toys or jewelry. As a result, it is difficult to identify the packages as containing seeds when they arrive in the country.
  • The seeds are from a range of plant species, including tomato, strawberry, rose and citrus, as well as some weed seeds that are common in Canada (for example, shepherd’s purse and flixweed).
  • Based on visual inspections carried out to date, the seeds appear to be low risk, however Canadians are being cautioned to not plant these seeds from unknown origins

It remains unclear why some Canadians are receiving the seeds, or their originators, although some of the recipients reported having ordered seeds online in the past.

The CFIA is considering all options, including the possibility that an e-commerce business is trying to boost online sales by sending unrequested products to customers and posting fake positive reviews, also known as “brushing”.

The CFIA continues to work with the Canada Border Services Agency and Canada Post, as well as with its international partners to identify the seed origins and stop the flow of unsolicited seeds into Canada.

The CFIA asks Canadians who receive seeds they did not order to:

  • Put the seeds, packaging, and mailing label in a sealed bag inside a second sealed bag.
  • Report them to a regional CFIA office.
  • Await further direction from the CFIA.
  • Refrain from planting, flushing, or composting the seeds to avoid them sprouting and spreading.

Additional steps:

  • If you no longer have the seeds but still have the packaging, please set it aside and report it to the CFIA.
  • If you have already planted the seeds or put them in the compost, please remove them, and any plants that may have grown from them, and put them in a sealed bag inside a second sealed bag, along with the package, if available, and contact the CFIA.
  • If you have already thrown the seeds in the garbage but still have packaging or other information that will help to determine where the seeds came from, please contact the CFIA.

While the CFIA continues to collect and share information with other countries experiencing the same situation, such as the United States, we may not be able to determine the source.

This situation is an opportunity to remind Canadians of the importance of plant health and of Canada’s plant import requirements when buying and selling online.

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