Three in-vitro bioassays were used to compare the oestrogenic potency of chemicals used as growth promoter in beef cattle in certain non-European Union countries (17beta-oestradiol, alpha-zearalanol, testosterone, trenbolone, trenbolone acetate, melengestrol acetate) or found as food contaminant such as the mycotoxin zearalenone and some of their metabolites (17alpha-oestradiol, oestrone, 17alpha-epitestosterone, 19-nortestosterone, androstendione, zearalanone, alpha-zearalanol, beta-zearalanol, alpha-zearalenol, beta-zearalenol). The strong oestrogens 17alpha-ethinyl oestradiol and diethylstilboestrol were used as standards. The first bioassay was based on the activation of a reporter gene by oestrogens in recombinant yeast expressing human or rainbow trout oestrogen receptor. In the second bioassay, the vitellogenin gene induction of rainbow trout hepatocyte cultures was used as a biomarker for the exposure to oestrogens. The third bioassay was based on the alkaline phosphatase gene induction by oestrogens in the human endometrial Ishikawa cell line. The assessment of oestrogenic potency of these chemicals clearly demonstrates the strong oestrogenicity of the mycotoxin zearalenone and its metabolites and particularly alpha-zearalenol which was as potent as ethinyl oestradiol and diethylstilboestrol in the human endometrial Ishikawa cell line.