Fonterra has shaken up the management team behind the dairy giant's business in China.

The New Zealand-based firm said Philip Turner, COO of its Chinese operations, would take over from Bob Major as managing director.

Major, who has managed Fonterra's business in China for five years, will retire from the company when his contract ends in May, the group said today (3 April).

Last year, Fonterra became embroiled in the melamine milk scandal in China, which led to at least six infant deaths and thousands of others falling ill.

The company held a 43% stake in Sanlu, the Chinese dairy at the centre of the scandal, but denied approving the use of melamine, an industrial chemical, in dairy products that went on sale in the country.

Fonterra cut the value of its stake in Sanlu by 70%, leading to an impairment charge of NZ$139m (US$81.1m). The Sanlu business has since been sold to fellow Chinese dairy Beijing Sanyuan Group.

Mark Wilson, MD of Fonterra's businesses across Asia and the Middle East, emphasised the importance of China to the company.

"Fonterra has a 30-year history in China and this remains a very important market to us," Wilson said.

"Phil's global view and understanding of the world dairy commodity environment will stand him in good stead in leading our business in China."