A sensitive and reliable method using capillary HPLC with UV-diode array detection (DAD) has been developed and validated for the trace determination of residues of 10 beta-lactam antibiotics of human and veterinary use, in milk, chicken meat and environmental water samples. The analytes included ampicillin, amoxicillin, penicillin V, penicillin G, cloxacillin, oxacillin, dicloxacillin, nafcillin, piperacillin and clavulanic acid. Legal levels are regulated by the EU Council regulation 2377/90 in animal edible tissues for these compounds. For food analysis, a solid-phase extraction (SPE) procedure consisting in a tandem of Oasis HLB and Alumina N cartridges was applied for off-line preconcentration and cleanup. For water analysis, the first step was only necessary. The limits of detection for the studied compounds were between 0.04-0.06 microg l(-1) for water samples and 0.80-1.40 microg l(-1) (or microg kg(-1)) in the case of foods derived from animals. Average recoveries for fortified samples at different concentration levels ranged between 82.9% and 98.2%, with relative standard deviations (RSDs) lower than 9%. The method showed the advantages of capillary HPLC for the detection of these widely applied antibiotics in different samples at very low concentration levels.