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‘Low risk’: CFIA updates on unrequested packages of seeds

August 11, 2020  By Stephanie Gordon

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) identified unrequested seeds received by Canadians to be from a range of plant species, like tomato and strawberry, but ultimately the seeds are low risk.

As of August 6, CFIA received reports from more than 750 individuals across all Canadian provinces who have received unrequested packages of unknown seeds. CFIA acknowledged no reports of unsolicited seeds in the territories. People in other countries such as the United States, United Kingdom, New Zealand and Europe, also reported receiving unrequested packages of unknown seeds.

The CFIA, in an August 6 update, said 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 mislabelled 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 by the CFIA to date, the seeds appear to be low risk. However, the inspection agency continues to caution Canadians to not plant these seeds from unknown origins.

Based on visual inspections carried out by the CFIA to date, the seeds appear to be low risk.

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 states that they are 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.”

Gerard Clover, head of plant health at the Royal Horticultural Society, in an interview with The Guardian downplayed the suggestion of bioterrorism, the use of plant pests and diseases to disrupt trade and economy. The United Stated Department of Agriculture (USDA) also said it didn’t have any support that the seeds were anything other than a brushing scam.

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.

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