Police have condemned as "irresponsible" the spreading of an urban myth about an attempted child abduction from the Manston Tesco store.
And they have warned they will prosecute the people reponsible if traced.
The hoax being circulated in the form of a text message and email, states a girl had been taken from a trolley while her mother's back was turned.
Detectives have visited managers and security staff at Tesco who have confirmed no such incident occurred.
Supt Chris Hogben said: "People in east Kent can be assured that if an incident of this nature had taken place, we would be very quick to warn them of it.
"This irresponsible act has caused angst and distress among parents of young children.
"We are investigating the origins of the email and will consider taking action against those responsible."
Tesco head office in Hertfordshire has had reports of similar hoaxes being spread about stores in Scotland and the Doncaster area.