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J Environ Sci Health B. 1990 Feb;25(1):87-103.

Minimal transmission of zearalenone to milk of dairy cows.

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  • 1Animal Research Centre, Agriculture Canada, Ottawa, Ontario.


Milk and plasma levels of zearalenone (ZEN), alpha-zearalenol (alpha-ZEL), beta-zearalenol (beta-ZEL) and conjugated metabolites were determined after feeding lactating cows with ZEN. In those instances where ZEN and alpha- and beta-ZEL were detected in milk or plasma, they occurred only as conjugates hydrolysable by treatment with a mixture of beta-glucuronidase and aryl sulfatase. With studies where 50 or 165 mg was fed daily to three cows for 21 day periods, neither dosage showed the presence of ZEN or metabolites in either milk or plasma (detection limits: milk, 0.5 ng/ml, ZEN, alpha-ZEL; 1.5 ng/ml, beta-ZEL; plasma, 2-3 times higher). A dose of 544.5 mg zearalenone per day given to a single cow for 21 days yielded maximum concentrations of only 2.5 ng ZEN/ml and 3.0 ng alpha-ZEL/ml in the milk. In plasma, up to 3 ng ZEN/ml could be detected during the initial 4 days of treatment. At a dose of 1.8 g of zearalenone given over a one day feeding period, maximum milk levels of 4.0 ng ZEN/ml, 1.5 ng alpha-ZEL/ml, and 4.1 ng beta-ZEL/ml were observed during the initial 2 days; corresponding maximum levels after a one day dose of 6.0 g zearalenone were 6.1, 4.0 and 6.6 ng/ml milk on days 2-3. In plasma, peak ZEN concentrations (9 and 13 ng/ml at the lower and higher one-day doses, respectively) occurred 12 hr after initial dosing, and declined to negligible levels by days 5-7. Neither alpha- nor beta-ZEL were detected in plasma. Since measurable levels required very high oral doses of ZEN, milk would not normally pose a human health hazard as a result of feeding rations containing ZEN to lactating dairy cows.

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