An improved sensitive method was developed and validated for the determination of histamine in food samples by using automated on-line pre-column derivatization coupled with high performance liquid chromatography and fluorescence detection (HPLC-FLD). o-Phthaldialdehyde (OPA) was adopted as derivatization reagent, and a "sandwich" (OPA+histamine+OPA) aspiration mode for the automated on-line pre-column derivatization was found to efficiently enhance the method sensitivity and precision. Histamine in food samples was efficiently extracted with a methanol-phosphate buffer solution (50:50, v/v) at 60 degrees C for 30 min, and purified with Waters Oasis MCX solid-phase extraction (SPE) cartridge. The limit of quantification for this method is 0.2 mg/kg, which is very sensitive for histamine determination. With the "sandwich" injection program, 3.7% of relative standard deviation (RSD) was achieved by five replicative determinations of a sample blank spiked with 0.25 mg/kg histamine standard. Histamine in food samples such as fumitory skipjack and mackerel was analyzed with relative recoveries over 95% at spiking level of 150 mg/kg, as well as canned tuna fish and cheese with relative recoveries up to 98% at spiking levels of 0.50 and 5.0 mg/kg, respectively. The proposed method was validated with a sample from the Food Analysis Performance Assessment Scheme (FAPAS) as a standard certified material; and the results (140+/-6 mg/kg) agreed well with the assigned value (139 mg/kg).