NC State Extension Publications


Zearalenone is structurally similar to estradiol, giving it estrogenic properties. Animals consuming this toxin may exhibit a variety of reproductive problems.

Species Producing Zearalenone

Skip to Species Producing Zearalenone

Zearalenone is produced primarily by Fusarium graminearum, but can also be produced by numerous other Fusarium species, including F. culmorum, F. verticillioides, F. avenaceum, F. tricinctum, Fusarium oxysporum, and F. nivale.

Occurrence of Zearalenone

Skip to Occurrence of Zearalenone

Zearalenone occurs most commonly in corn and wheat, but it has also been detected in oats, rice, rye, sorghum, and barley. It occurs worldwide. Production of zearalenone is favored by warm days with cool nights.

Regulation of Zearalenone

Skip to Regulation of Zearalenone

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has no regulations or guidelines on zearalenone in animal feeds.


Skip to Toxicosis

Zearalenone toxicity causes a variety of reproductive issues, including vaginitis, vaginal secretions, abortions, infertility, and mammary gland enlargement in virgin heifers. No sequestering agents are available for zearalenone, so the only treatment is removal from the contaminated feed. Clinical symptoms of zearalenone toxicity should improve within two to eight weeks after removal of contaminated feed. In the ruminant, zearalenone can be metabolized to α- and β-zearalenol, which can have more potent estrogenic activity if absorbed into the system.


Skip to Sources

Diaz, D. The Mycotoxin Blue Book. 2005. 295–323. Nottingham, UK: Nottingham University Press.

Hascheck, W.M, C.G. Rousseaux, and M.A. Wallig. 2010. Fundamentals of Toxicologic Pathology, 2nd ed. London: Elsevier Inc.

Mostrom, M.S. 2011. “Zearalenone Toxicosis.” In Clinical Veterinary Advisor: The Horse, edited by D.A. Wilson, 655–656. London: Elsevier Inc.


Assistant Professor and Extension Specialist
Animal Science
Graduate Assistant
Animal Science
Graduate Assistant
Animal Science

Find more information at the following NC State Extension websites:

Publication date: Aug. 23, 2021

N.C. Cooperative Extension prohibits discrimination and harassment regardless of age, color, disability, family and marital status, gender identity, national origin, political beliefs, race, religion, sex (including pregnancy), sexual orientation and veteran status.