The present EU moratorium banning the use of bST to increase milk yield implies the need for official controls. Our study aimed to identify milk from bST treated cows via the induced increase of insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) concentrations. A non-extraction radioimmunoassay for IGF-1 was improved and thoroughly validated for milk. Accuracy was 99% recovery in a fortified sample material, the precision was 5.1% intra-assay variation and 13.4% inter-assay variation. Parallelism was proved by a dilution experiment which yielded a regression line with a slope (-0.7%) not significantly different from zero (P = 0.534). Naturally occurring milk IGF-1 levels were recorded in 5777 random milk samples from the Bavarian dairy cow population. In samples from lactation week 7 to 33, the effect of somatic cell count (SCC), protein content and parity could be quantified and corrected; thus a normal distribution (-0.068 mean +/- 0.440 s) of the corrected logarithmic IGF-1 levels (corr ln IGF-1) was obtained. IGF-1 concentrations occurring in milk from bST treated cows were recorded in 33 Brown Swiss cows treated once with rbST (POSILAC). Mean corr in IGF-1 levels increased by 0.828 and 0.477 in first parity and older cows, respectively. Thus 60% and 29%, respectively, of the positives could be detected at a 95% probability. If our results are confirmed in experiments with more bST treated cows and with prolonged treatment intervals. IGF-1 measurements might be useful to monitor for bST application in milk samples.