Negotiations to make a $10 billion (€10.06bn; £6.30bn) meal of US chocolate giant Hershey were put on hold Tuesday in a smalltown Pennsylvania courtroom.

The judge acceded to a request by state attorney general Mike Fisher to freeze all negotiations for Hershey until the outcome of another court hearing on Friday is known. The latter suit has been filed by The Milton Hershey School Alumni Association, representing the orphan school’s former pupils.

The association fears the sale of Hershey by its controlling shareholder, The Milton Hershey School Trust (which holds 77% of the company’s voting rights), could cause “irreparable harm” to the eponymous company town that almost entirelydepends on the firm.

Waiting hungrily in the wings for the outcome of the case are multinational giants Nestlé of Switzerland, Kraft Foods of the US and Britain’s Cadbury-Schweppes.

There is more at stake here than first meets the eye. As an icon of traditional Americana, Hershey is second only to Mom’s apple pie.

Data sourced from: Times Online (UK); additional content by WARC staff