Sour day for ice creams

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Always try to use our sheer size to absorb the movements in the commodity markets," said a Unilever spokesperson.

"But, unfortunately, this time the milk-fat hikes are too big. I know it looks like us cashing in on the heatwave but this has caught the industry on the hop."

Behind the rise in milk-fat prices lies a complicated story. The industry blames the new pricing system introduced by the United States Department of Agriculture, and a spokesman for that in turn blames a seasonal slowdown in milk production.

Asked whether a similar problem could deprive British ice-cream aficonados of their treats, City food analysts were gloomy. "Milk-fat prices here are determined by different factors than in the States," one said unhappily.

"Things are stable enough at present but I really would not be surprised if we see the milk-fat prices going sour on us here too, probably as an aftermath of this foot-and-mouth crisis."