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.