You could get in trouble for getting mysterious packages in mail

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Could you be held legally responsible for a package you received that you didn't order?

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), it depends on what's in it and what you do about it.

Contents of packages that pose a risk to U.S. agriculture or the environment are considered illegal and could land you with a steep fine under USDA regulations, but there are ways to avoid it.

SEE ALSO: Officials warn not to open unsolicited packages of seeds labeled from China

APHIS guidelines on receiving foreign plants, food and other agriculture products in the mail are:

  • The USDA recommends you ask friends and family for notice before receiving items in the mail.
  • Let U.S. merchants handle importing for your purchases to eliminate your liability
  • Look out for counterfeit items when making purchases
  • Don't assume everything you buy overseas is legal in the U.S.
  • Don't accept re-shipment of items seized by DHS Customs and Border Protection
  • Always check the status of import regulations


This warning comes in the midst of states' agriculture departments advising residents about receiving unsolicited seeds from China.

However, APHIS says people won't be penalized for reporting unsolicited seeds.

APHIS asks anyone who receives an unsolicited seed package to report it online and mail the seeds to one of the designated USDA locations in their state or contact your APHIS State Plant Health Director to arrange a no-contact pick up or find a drop-off location.

READ MORE: Beware! Texans getting mystery seeds from China unsolicited, says agriculture chief

As of Aug. 11, APHIS has received more than 9,300 emails and 600 calls from people reporting packages of unsolicited seeds or inquiring information about them. So far, the agency has collected more than 1,300 packages of seeds for inspection.

RELATED: Montgomery Co. woman receives package of seeds from China

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