Public Health Nutrition

Public policies

The process of setting micronutrient recommendations: a cross-European comparison of nutrition-related scientific advisory bodies

Lada Timotijevica1 c1, Julie Barnetta2, Kerry Browna1, Richard Shepherda1, Laura Fernández-Celemína3, Livia Dömölkia4, Juri Rupricha5, Rosalie A Dhonukshe-Ruttena6, Anne-Mette Sonnea7, Maria Hermosoa8, Berthold Koletzkoa8, Lene Frost-Andersena9, Arnold Timmera10 and Monique M Raatsa1

a1 Food, Consumer Behaviour and Health Research Centre, School of Human Sciences, University of Surrey, Guildford GU1 1TR, UK

a2 Department of Information Systems and Computing, Brunel University, Uxbridge, UK

a3 European Food Information Council (EUFIC), Brussels, Belgium

a4 National Association for Consumer Protection in Hungary, Budapest, Hungary

a5 Department of Food Safety and Nutrition, National Institute of Public Health, Brno, Czech Republic

a6 Division of Human Nutrition, Wageningen University, Wageningen, The Netherlands

a7 MAPP – Centre for research on customer relations in the food sector, University of Aarhus, Aarhus, Denmark

a8 Division of Metabolic Diseases and Nutrition, Ludwig–Maximilians University of Munich, Munich, Germany

a9 Department of Nutrition, Institute of Basic Medical Sciences, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway

a10 UNICEF Headquarters, New York, NY, USA


Objective To examine the workings of the nutrition-related scientific advisory bodies in Europe, paying particular attention to the internal and external contexts within which they operate.

Design Desk research based on two data collection strategies: a questionnaire completed by key informants in the field of micronutrient recommendations and a case study that focused on mandatory folic acid (FA) fortification.

Setting Questionnaire-based data were collected across thirty-five European countries. The FA fortification case study was conducted in the UK, Norway, Denmark, Germany, Spain, Czech Republic and Hungary.

Results Varied bodies are responsible for setting micronutrient recommendations, each with different statutory and legal models of operation. Transparency is highest where there are standing scientific advisory committees (SAC). Where the standing SAC is created, the range of expertise and the terms of reference for the SAC are determined by the government. Where there is no dedicated SAC, the impetus for the development of micronutrient recommendations and the associated policies comes from interested specialists in the area. This is typically linked with an ad hoc selection of a problem area to consider, lack of openness and transparency in the decisions and over-reliance on international recommendations.

Conclusions Even when there is consensus about the science behind micronutrient recommendations, there is a range of other influences that will affect decisions about the policy approaches to nutrition-related public health. This indicates the need to document the evidence that is drawn upon in the decisions about nutrition policy related to micronutrient intake.

(Received October 22 2009)

(Accepted June 30 2010)

(Online publication September 23 2010)


c1 Corresponding author: Email