WASHINGTON, DC – December 14, 2000 – U.S. food retailers now can directly participate in the creation of a single, national technical specification that will improve the entire Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) system, according to the Food Marketing Institute (FMI).

"The opportunity now exists for retailers to contribute to the development of a national EBT specification that will greatly enhance the operation of the EBT system for all stakeholders," said Ted Mason, FMI technology standards manager and the newly elected chair of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Accredited Standards Committee X9A11 working group. "We encourage interested retailers to get involved in helping to establish strategically designed standards that will help the industry achieve its EBT goals."

The working group is charged with developing and maintaining electronic financial messaging format standards critical in operating electronic benefits transfer (EBT) programs, including food stamps. Food retailers believe the new standards will allow EBT transactions to function quickly with reliability and accountability for all participants.

The X9A11-EBT group has specified five primary objectives for the program:
1. Establish immediate coalescence around a single EBT Processor Interface Technical Specifications document for all stakeholders.
2. Begin revising work on the ANSI X9/DSTU-2-1995 EBT Processor Interface Technical Specifications to bring the document into harmony with its parent document, ISO-8583, which is currently undergoing a five-year review.
3. Present a new work item (NWI) for establishing a standard for an electronic point-of-sale Women, Infant and Children’s (WIC) payment program.
4. Establish an ongoing X9A11 maintenance committee incorporating EBT changes into established EBT documents as needed.

Although FMI, through its Electronic Payment Systems (EPS) committee, has been actively pursuing upgrades in the standards process for several years, this is its first formal leadership role in the electronic payments standards arena. FMI’s role and interest in payments issues increased substantially this year after a series of outages left thousands of consumers nationwide without access to benefits and retailers with abandoned shopping carts in checkout lines.

For details about participating in the ANSI X9A11-EBT working group, please contact Ted Mason at 202-220-0735.