A source close to Home Secretary Priti Patel has branded Ben and Jerry’s ice cream “overpriced junk food” after the company criticised her stance on cross-channel migrant crossings.
In a series of tweets, the firm urged her and others to show more “humanity”, adding that “people cannot be illegal”.
The government earlier said the UK must consider changing asylum laws to deter migrants from crossing the Channel.
More than 4,000 people have made the journey successfully this year.
On Saturday, the Home Office asked defence chiefs to help make crossings of the dangerous route in small boats “unviable”.
The official Ben and Jerry’s UK Twitter account posted a series of tweets tagging the home secretary, which began: “Hey @PritiPatel, we think the real crisis is our lack of humanity for people fleeing war, climate change and torture.”
It added: “People wouldn’t make dangerous journeys if they had any other choice.”
The account also tweeted: “People cannot be illegal.”
But a Home Office source replied: “Priti is working day and night to bring and end to these small boat crossings, which are facilitated by international criminal gangs and are rightly of serious concern to the British people.
“If that means upsetting the social media team for a brand of overpriced junk food, then so be it.”
The multinational company Unilever purchased Ben and Jerry’s – founded in 1978 by best friends Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield – in 2000.
Earlier on Tuesday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said it was currently “very, very difficult” to legally return people who arrive in the UK from France using small boats.