The report, entitled Corn - Part of a Healthy Diet, is built around the idea that corn-based ingredients are an essential part of enhanced nutrition and reduced calories and fat foods.
As the association notes, corn, in many guises, has become a staple of the American diet, appearing as corn starch, glucose syrups, high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and other organic and amino acids.
The news about corn that most often make the headlines is negative, concentrating in particular on the supposed link between HFCS and obesity. The association, though, wants to steer the food industry and consumers towards looking at corn-derived products through healthy-looking spectacles.
The CRA picks out several examples in the report that show corn being used in a 'healthy capacity', including the use of corn oil as a "viable alternative to partially hydrogenated vegetable oils for the production of zero trans fat processed foods". The association also notes corn's ability to be added as a soluble dietary fiber to clear beverages such as sports drinks and comments that "reduced calorie corn-derived sweeteners have fewer calories than sugar, do not promote tooth decay and elicit a low glycemic index that many studies are showing to be beneficial to persons with diabetes and for certain diets."
The CRA wants to give out the message that it is concerned about obesity, but wants the government to initiate a "cooperative effort among government, health professionals, consumers and industry," said Audrae Erickson, president of the CRA, instead of 'blaming' the food industry.
"Bolstered by one-sided media reports and knee-jerk politicians looking for a scapegoat, the food and beverage industry is now swimming in an ocean of sharks," according to chairman John Boehner. He believes that more emphasis should be placed on the lack of physical activity undertaken by Americans.
The CRA is also keen to focus attention on the power of the corn industry and its contribution to the US economy. It notes the fact that: "Last year, American corn farmers produced a record crop of 10.1 billion bushels and corn refiners shipped nearly 56 billion pounds of refined corn products," said chairman Martin Andreas from Archer Daniels Midland.
He noted, moreover, that: "Exports of refined corn products increased approximately 20 percent over 2002. The value of refined corn exports increased nearly $81 million to contribute a positive balance of $1.3 billion to the US economy".
The CRA, however, expressed its disappointment that its exports are lower than they should be because of the Mexican 'discretionary tax' introduced for corn sweeteners such as high fructose syrups in soft drinks.
Mexico introduced a 20 percent tax on HFCS in order to protect its struggling sugar industry, and to retaliate against US curbs on imports of surplus Mexican sugar after anti-dumping duties introduced in 1998 were declared illegal by the WTO in an earlier ruling.
The CRA claims in its annual report that the tax imposition has "severely eroded industry investments for nearly three years" and hopes that the issue, which is now with the World Trade Organisation, will soon be resolved.
The association draws attention to the "Mexico Agricultural Trade Alliance Act". "This legislation will impose trade duties on Mexican food and agricultural exports to the US in retaliation for Mexico's barriers to imports of US HFCS, if the sweetner dispute is not resolved."
HFCS: Good or bad?
The CRA is not alone in claiming that there is no proof that HFCS is used by the body in a different way than sugar, honey or invert sugar.
Scientists from the Center for Food and Nutrition Policy (CFNP) at Virginia Tech said at the IFT annual meeting in Las Vegas in July that there was no credible evidence to 'single out' HFCS as a unique contributor to obesity.
Maureen Storey, director of the Center for Food and Nutrition Policy (CFNP) said there was "simply no credible scientific evidence that HFCS is the cause of rising overweight/obesity rates" and claimed that previous studies indicating the contrary were flawed.
One study that she criticized was that published in May by researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, claiming a link between the consumption of refined carbohydrates and type 2 diabetes.
Looking at 100 years of data from the US Department of Agriculture and Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, the researchers suggested that people have eaten the same amount of carbohydrates a day on average - 500 grams - since 1909. But instead of whole grains and vegetables, people are receiving more and more of the carbohydrates in the form of processed grains and sugars, with the majority coming from corn syrup.
The 2004 Corn Annual Report, Corn - Part of a Healthy Diet, is available online.