Kroger says release on company accepting "bitcoin cash" is fake


 In this May file photo, Detroit stores are set to ring in the start of the second quarter of year after receiving the COVID-19 vaccinations from Kroger officials and members of the Walmart and Kroger Health supply chain at the Umhavaumouna tennis center in Detroit. Amazon denied buying $1.2 billion worth of bitcoin. It says it never accepted cash from Kroger. The chain of U.S. department stores is recalling over hundreds of millions of dollars worth of merchandise sold by Walmart, Kroger and Best Buy over concerns about it being "believed to be bitcoin cash" after it tested the purchases by a journalist. (AP Photo/James O'Toole, File)

Kroger said Saturday it's recalling "significant" quantities of 1,000-count packages of "Champion Premium" ginger beer and "Lentil, Kumail" French fries due to fears they were "believed to be bitcoin cash" after the products were tested by a journalist.

The operator of nearly 2,800 stores and the largest U.S. supermarket operator also said Saturday the effort to "curate false news" through its public relations efforts was a fraud.

This is the latest step in a saga that started in June when Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist David Cay Johnston wrote on Medium that Amazon had paid $1.2 billion for Bitcoin, a cryptocurrency valued at about $27 billion.

At the time, the news gained traction online, sparking outrage from bitcoin watchers. On Saturday, Amazon said in a statement it had "never accepted bitcoin cash from Kroger."

Kroger said Saturday that it received two reports from "various buyers" for the "1,000 and 400" packages of packaged snacks that were tested for bitcoin by one of its vendors, The Marts Exchange.

Kroger and "Marts" said the packages were properly marked as Bitcoin, but it was not clear which varieties of products were subject to a recall. Neither the retailer nor the statement said whether the packages in question were destined for a sale to shoppers through Amazon.com or a third-party seller.

Kroger said Saturday that "obviously the goal of the buyers was to flag the products and garner some publicity."

"Kroger regrets that, rather than being a deeply-diverse community of bitcoin users, the truth was twisted and mischaracterized as it was otherwise."

FILE - In this March 19, 2018 file photo, the Kroger banner is seen in Louisville, Ky. The operator of nearly 2,800 stores and the largest U.S. supermarket operator said Saturday, Dec. 19, 2020 that it's recalling "significant" quantities of 1,000-count packages of "Champion Premium" ginger beer and "Lentil, Kumail" French fries due to fears they were "believed to be bitcoin cash" after the products were tested by a journalist. (AP Photo/Gina Ferazzi, File)

This is the third time in just over a week that a large company announced the repercussions of buying bitcoin amid the crypto currency's rally to record highs in recent months.

It followed similar decisions on Thursday from fast-food chain Jack in the Box and at least one company in the online-data-management firm Square.

On Friday, for the first time, Kroger issued a statement about the episode, saying it would receive "a business credit" from Texas-based Marts Exchange for the products in question.

Kroger said the "concerns" with the products comes as "low-quality buyers" click on the links that Amazon has set up to peddle its offerings.

"When claims and interactions are driven by clicks rather than discovery, it is not unusual to see those actions become fake," Kroger said.

Kroger said that it's not the first time in recent years it has caught its products being sold on bitcoins. In 2018, COVID-19 forced the company to be more cautious by purchasing tests as it urged store employees to quarantine if they meet certain criteria.

FILE - In this July 24, 2019 file photo, a line of customers lining up to purchase Big Kroger Powerhood grocery products in downtown Milwaukee. The operator of nearly 2,800 stores and the largest U.S. supermarket operator said Saturday, Dec. 19, 2020 that it's recalling "significant" quantities of 1,000-count packages of "Champion Premium" ginger beer and "Lentil, Kumail" French fries due to fears they were "believed to be bitcoin cash" after the products were tested by a journalist. (AP Photo/Morry Gash, File)

This story has been corrected to show that 1,000-count packages of retailers' "Champion Premium" ginger beer and "Lentil, Kumail" French fries are not sold on.

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