A Ce(IV)-based reducing capacity (CERAC) assay was developed to measure the total antioxidant capacity (TAC) of foods, in which Ce(IV) would selectively oxidize antioxidant compounds but not citric acid and reducing sugars which are not classified as antioxidants. The method is based on the electron-transfer (ET) reaction between Ce(IV) ion and antioxidants in optimized acidic sulphate medium (i.e., 0.3 M H(2)SO(4) and 0.7 M Na(2)SO(4)) and subsequent determination of the produced Ce(III) ions by a fluorometric method. The fluorescent product, Ce(III), exhibited strong fluorescence at 360 nm with an excitation wavelength of 256 nm, the fluorescence intensity being correlated to antioxidant power of the original sample. The linear concentration range for most antioxidants was quite wide, e.g., 5.0 x 10(-7)-1.0 x 10(-5) M for quercetin. The developed procedure was successfully applied to the TAC assay of antioxidant compounds such as trolox, quercetin, gallic acid, ascorbic acid, catechin, naringin, naringenin, caffeic acid, ferulic acid, glutathione, and cysteine. The proposed method was reproducible, additive in terms of TAC values of constituents of complex mixtures, and the trolox equivalent antioxidant capacities (TEAC coefficients) of the tested antioxidant compounds gave good correlations with those found by reference methods such as ABTS and CUPRAC.