In humans, the occurrence of prenatal exposure to ethanol is difficult to validate objectively. Increased concentration of fatty acid ethyl esters (FAEE) in the meconium of the newborn may be a biomarker of prenatal ethanol exposure. The validity of this proposed biomarker was tested in pregnant guinea pigs that received chronic oral administration of 4 g ethanol/kg maternal body weight/day (n=8), isocaloric-sucrose/pair-feeding (n=8) or water (n=2) throughout gestation. At gestational day 65 (term, gestational day 66 to 69), each dam and her offspring were euthanized, and meconium was collected from the term fetal large intestine. Eight individual FAEE (lauric, myristic, palmitic, palmitoleic, stearic, oleic, linolenic and arachidonic AEE) were measured by gas chromatography--flame ionization detection and confirmed by gas chromatography--mass spectrometry. The chronic maternal ethanol regimen decreased fetal body weight and brain weight. There was virtually no measurable FAEE in the meconium for the water group (n=3 fetuses). For meconium of the ethanol offspring (n=25 fetuses) compared with the sucrose offspring (n=23 fetuses), the total FAEE concentration was 8-fold higher; and lauric, palmitic, stearic and oleic AEE concentrations were at least 5-fold higher for the ethanol group. The data indicate that fetal meconium FAEE constitute a biomarker of prenatal ethanol exposure for a maternal ethanol regimen that restricts fetal development, with an inverse relationship between meconium total FAEE concentration and both body weight and brain weight.