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Food Safety

Unsolicited seed packages received within the European Union


In recent months, EU Citizens have been receiving unsolicited small-sized packages of seeds in the post sent by on-line retailers based in China, Singapore, Taiwan, Vanuatu and Malaysia.

These packages were misdeclared as "other goods" (e.g. jewellery, gifts, earrings) and the required phytosanitary certificate did not accompany them.

In July 2020, DG SANTE was informed and subsequently launched a reporting request to all Member States to investigate the situation in their territories and report their findings to the Commission.

Some Member States have already reported several cases and have been carrying out investigations on these consignments.

The EU Commission is in close contact with law enforcement agencies and the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) to tackle this issue.

According to EU legislation on the marketing of seeds of agricultural and vegetable crops, importing seeds from the referred third countries are illegal. Seed introduction (for non-commercial purposes) into the EU is only allowed when accompanied by a phytosanitary certificate..

As no EU seed equivalence has been established with these third-countries, they do not offer the equivalent guarantees as in the EU for identity (species, varieties), health (so-called quarantine and quality pests), and quality (e.g. germination, noxious weeds) of the seeds.

Regarding seeds of ornamental plants, it is the importer's responsibility to ensure that all EU requirements are met and the Member States' authorities have to be informed of the imports to allow controls if necessary.

Plant Health concerns are under investigation (also regarding invasive plant species that might threaten native plants and crops, or potentially introduce diseases or harm livestock or the environment).

In some cases, the packages contain more than one genus of seeds, with plant debris, soil, insect larvae and associated insect damage as well as evidence of fungal structures.

At this time, there is noevidence indicating this is something other than a "brushing scam" where people receive unsolicited items from a seller who then posts false customer reviews to boost sales.

Competent authorities in the Member States have launched public awareness actions on web sites, as well as traditional and social Media, calling on citizens not to open the packages, not to plant the seeds and to report the suspicious packages to competent authorities in the Member States with a view tol destroy them in a secure manner, after performing their own verifications.

The EU Commission recommends anyone who receives an unsolicited package of seeds to contact their competent authority immediately.

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