The Expert Group on the Methodological Approaches and Current Nutritional Recommendations in Children and Adolescents was convened to consider the current situation across Europe with regard to dietary recommendations and reference values for children aged 2–18 years. Information was obtained for twenty-nine of the thirty-nine countries in Europe and a comprehensive compilation was made of the dietary recommendations current up to September 2002. This report presents a review of the concepts of dietary reference values and a comparison of the methodological approaches used in each country. Attention is drawn to the special considerations that are needed for establishing dietary reference values for children and adolescents. Tables are provided of the current dietary reference values for energy and for the macronutrients, vitamins, minerals, trace elements and water. Brief critiques are included to indicate the scientific foundations of the reference values for children and to offer, where possible, an explanation for the wide differences that exist between countries. This compilation demonstrated that there are considerable disparities in the perceived nutritional requirements of European children and adolescents. Although some of this diversity can be attributed to real physiological and environmental differences, most is due to differences in philosophy about the best methodological approach to use and in the way the theoretical approaches are applied. The report highlights the main methodological and technological issues that will need to be resolved before harmonisation can be fully considered. Solving these issues may help to improve the quality and consistency of dietary reference values across Europe. However, there are also considerable scientific and political barriers that will need to be overcome and the question of whether harmonisation of dietary reference values for children and adolescents is a desirable or achievable goal for Europe requires further consideration.