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Public concern surrounding antibiotic contamination in food and food products has made it imperative to develop analytical methods for their detection. Polyclonal antibodies were used in the development of a surface plasmon resonance (SPR)-based inhibition immunoassay for cephalexin. A conjugate consisting of cephalexin-bovine serum albumin (BSA) was immobilized on the dextran gel surface of the sensor chip. Binding/regeneration studies of antibody to immobilized cephalexin were studied and dissociation of the antibody from the immobilized cephalexin was easily achieved with 10 mmol l−1 NaOH. Forty surface regeneration cycles were carried out and found to be reproducible with only a 7.4% decrease in binding over this number of regenerations. Model inhibition immunoassays for cephalexin were developed in PBS and spiked milk samples with detection ranges of 4.88 to 2,500 ng ml−1 and 244 to 3,906 pg ml−1, respectively.