The scare over botulism contamination at Fonterra, the world's top dairy exporter, claimed its first scalp with the resignation of Gary Romano, head of the division responsible for the tainted product.
Mr Romano, who joined Fonterra in 2005, "has resigned from his role of managing director New Zealand milk products, with immediate effect," the co-operative said.
His departure represents the first of a senior manager since Fonterra on August 3 revealed the discovery in some of its whey protein concentrate - an ingredient for the likes of infant formula, yoghurt and body building powder - of bacteria which can produce botulism poisoning
The scare, in a product shipped to buyers including Coca Cola and Danone, has prompted recalls of potentially tainted products in China and Malaysia, besides Australia and New Zealand, as well as import curbs by some countries, such as China.
With Fonterra, which is responsible for processing nearly 90% of milk in New Zealand, the top dairy exporter, also the country's biggest company and a major earner of foreign currency, the scare is being seen by the government as of national importance.
Mr Romano, as the manager in charge of the division which made the whey concentrate, took a high profile at Fonterra in the immediate aftermath of the contamination scare, while Theo Spierings, the Fonterra chief executive, flew to China to attempt to limit damage in the biggest dairy importing country.
And, while a series of internal and external investigations into the contamination are underway, Mr Romano acknowledged some shortcomings at Fonterra, over the length of time it took the co-operative to contact New Zealand officials.
"There's definitely some time that we're not happy with – how long it took to get to work with the Ministry of Primary Industries, to give them some information, so that's going to be part of our review," Mr Romano said at press conference last Wednesday.
A day earlier, he acknowledged that the scare had damaged the Fonterra brand.
Mr Spierings has also fielded questions over his future but, when asked whether he would resign, has said "it is not up to me to answer, that's up to the board".
'World class safety standards'
Mr Romano has 16 years' experience in the dairy industry, including at New Zealand Dairy Group, one of the companies from which Fonterra was formed, besides roles at mining giant Alcoa and the Boston Consulting Group.
Fonterra has previously said of him: "In the dairy industry, he has had significant experience in both the manufacturing and supply chain areas, and has led teams charged with the responsibility of achieving world class standards of productivity, quality, safety, cost effectiveness, service and environmental performance."
On Tuesday, Mr Spierings said: "Gary has made a significant contribution during his time at Fonterra and we respect his decision."
The scare has also sparked some debate over Fonterra's corporate governance, and the make-up of its 13-member board, which comprises nine members elected by the co-operative's supplier shareholders, and four appointed by the board itself.
Some observers have suggested that the quota of appointed directors should be raised, to allow the board a broader range of experience, with supplier appointees reduced.
The automatic appointment of a chairman, currently John Wilson, from among the appointees has also been questioned.