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Zearaleone ( ZEA )


- CAS N° [ 17924-92-4]
formula: C18H22O5
molecular weight : 318.37 amu
white crystals (mp = 164°C)
[α] 546 = -170.5°

UV absorption: 236 nm (ε = 30889), 274 nm (ε = 12623), 314nm (ε = 5780) in acetonitrile
Fluorescence λex = 314 nm, λem = 450 nm (in ethanol)


LD50 (bw rat p.o.) > 10000 mg/kg;
TDI = 0.5 µg/kg bw (provisional JEFCA)


Zearalenone is a white crystalline compound, insoluble in water but soluble in various organic solvents. This toxin is a stable compound as well during storage than during milling, processing and cooking of food. It does not degrade at high temperatures.


According to its structure, ZEA allows its binding to mammalian oestrogen receptors. So ZEA induces oestrogenic effects on mammals and interferes with conception, ovulation, implantation, foetal development and viability. Beside its oestrogenic activity, ZEA also possesses anabolic activity.


ZEA was also regarded as a causative agent in epidemics of premature thelarche in girls (Puerto-Rico, 1978 and 1981, South-eastern Hungary 1997) but there is a lack of adequate information.


Zearaleone (ZEA)

Zearalenone is a mycotoxin produced by several field fungi of the genus Fusarium as F.graminearum, culmorum, cerealis, Those fungi infect cereals pre-harvest in the fields during blooming. Growing and production of toxins may also occur post harvest storage under poor storage conditions (moisture>22%).


Because the spores of Fusarium are ubiquitous, cereals as barley, oats, wheat, rice, maize are susceptible to contamination with zearalenone. It occurs in both temperate and warmer climate zones.


Sofar they are produced by the same Fusarium fungi, ZEA often occurs simultaneously with deoxynivalenol (DON) in cereals worldwide. At low concentration, the effect of ZEA is antagonized by the presence of déoxynivalénol (DON).


According to the ZEA levels found in feed, transmission of ZEA into tissues and milk of ruminants does not pose a significant health risk. Even by cows fed at a 165 mg/day intake, no detectable residues could be found in the milk. Since the very high LD50, ZEA is more a fungal non steroidal hormone (oestrogen) than a direct mycotoxin.


NORMS AND LEGISLATION (maximal levels allowed in feed and food) :

Maximum levels in foodstuffs: wheat, durum wheat, oats, barley, maize, baby food...

- (

COMMISSION REGULATION (EC) No 1126/2007 of 28 September 2007 amending Regulation (EC) No 1881/2006 setting maximum levels for certain contaminants in foodstuffs as regards Fusarium toxins in maize and maize products


COMMISSION REGULATION (EC) No 1881/2006 of 19 December 2006 setting maximum levels for certain contaminants in foodstuffs

Tolerable daily intake

- (,2.pdf?ssbinary=true)

Opinion of the Scientific Panel on Contaminants in the Food Chain on a request from the Commission related to Zearalenone as undesirable substance in animal feed, The EFSA journal 89, 1-35 (2004)


CODA-CERVA is mainly dedicated to scientific research and services in the field of food safety, public and animal health. He also provides analytical facilities for third part by the determination of Fusarium toxins in cereals and cereal products. This activity is accredited according to the European Quality norm ISO 17025

CODA-CERVA is the Belgian Federal Reference laboratory (NRL) for mycotoxins.


As NRL, the activities of CODA-CERVA are focused on scientific research developing leading edges in order to help analytical laboratories to develop their own activities and/or to properly use commercial analytical techniques. Our main activities are :

-control and comparison of quantitative or qualitative kits for ZEA determination sold on the marked
-organisation of ring test
-education of the personnel of external laboratories and coordination between the National reference laboratory (NRL), the European reference laboratory (CEN) and the analytical laboratories, by the organization of scientific meetings about the activities done by the NRL and emerging researches
-helping the authorities regarding new legislation and regulation about emerging mycotoxins by development of new analytical methods


- The Operational Direction "Chemical Safety of the Food Chain" focuses his research in developing analytical methods for the determination of Fusarium toxins as ZEA.


-A method was developed for the determination of ZEA and potential emerging mycotoxins in stored cereals. Using this tool, the impact of grain contamination was assessed with special attention on the mycotoxigenic potential of grain dust.


-In collaboration with other research teams in Belgium, a large study devoted to the comparison of mycotoxin levels and especially ZEA in organic and conventional foodstuffs has been carried out.


- In collaboration with other research teams in Belgium, isolation, identification and purification of well known (e.g. ZEA) and emerging mycotoxins for toxicological studies at concentrations that are plausible for the gastro-intestinal tract.

- Silages: tracking of ZEA and emerging mycotoxins

- Rapid methods for the determination of ZEA in Feed and Food

- transfer studies of ZEA and other mycotoxins from feed to animal products (CONTEGG, MYCOTOXPLUIM)



Alfons Callebaut
Philippe Debongnie
Emmanuel Tangni
Bart Huybrechts
Jorina Geys



- Tangni E.K., Waegeneers N., Van Overmeire I, Goeyens L., Pussemier L. 2009. Mycotoxin analyses in some home produced eggs in Belgium reveal small contribution to the total daily intake. Science of the Total Environment 407:4411-4418.
- Van Overmeire, L. Pussemier, N. Waegeneers, V. Hanot, I. Windal, L. Boxus, A. Covaci, G. Eppe, M.L. Scippo, I. Sioen, M. Bilau, X. Gellynck, H. De Steur, E.K. Tangni, L. Goeyens. 2009. Assessment of the chemical contamination in home-produced eggs in Belgium: general overview of the contegg study. Science of the Total Environment 407:4403-4410..

- Tangni E.K., Pussemier L., Bastiaanse H., Depoorter J., Haesaert G., Robbens J. & Van Hove F. 2008. Characterization of fungal species and Mycotoxin contaminating silages in Belgium Project C3/00/22 Belspo.

- Tangni E. K., Pussemier L., Callebaut A., Debongnie P. & Van Hove F. Contamination of maize silages in Belgium by Fusarium mycotoxins. In: CODA-CERVA Annual scientific report 2008.


- Pussemier L, Piérard J-Y,. Anselme M., Tangni E.K. J-C Motte, Larondelle Y. 2006. Development and application of analytical methods adapted to the determination of mycotoxins in organic and conventional cereals. Food Additives and contaminants 23(11): 1208-1218..

- Pierard, J.Y., Depasse, C., Delafortrie, A., Motte, J.C., "Multi-mycotoxin determination methodology", in "Meeting the Mycotoxin menace", Barug, D., van Egmond, H., Lopez-Garcia, R., van Osenbruggen, T. and Visconti, A. ed, Wageningen Academic Publishers, 2004, pp 255-268, ISBN-907-69982-80.




« Zéaralénone : propriétés et toxicité expérimentale », J.L. Gaumy et coll., Revue Méd. Vét., 2001, 152, 3, 219-234,3.pdf?ssbinary=true

« Opinion of the Scientific Panel on Contaminants in the Food Chain on a request from the Commission related to

Zearalenone as undesirable substance in animal feed », The EFSA Journal (2004) 89, 1-35

«Zearalenone», from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

FAPAS®, The Food and Environment Research Agency, Sand Hutton, York, UK, YO41 1LZ

BIPEA, Organizing interlaboratory comparisons tests and assistance for laboratories to manage, maintain and improve their performances, F-92230 Gennevilliers, France.