WASHINGTON, DC — November 1, 2002 — To reduce or prevent severe outages that have shut down electronic benefits transfer (EBT) systems in recent years, the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) has led the development of a new national technical standard — ANSI ASC X9.58-2002. Created with the cooperation of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), the standard will help ensure that food stamp recipients receive their benefits in electronic transactions without disruption, was led by the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) and its food retail company members.

“The lack of a single national technical specification for EBT messages has contributed to constant retailer, payment processor and government confusion about EBT operational and outage recovery issues,” stated Ted Mason, chair of the X9A11-EBT committee. “After a comprehensive review of this issue by FMI, ANSI and food retail companies nationwide, we are pleased to announce the development of a new national standard that will immediately alleviate the confusion and frustration.”

Established by the X9A11-EBT committee — which includes retailers, payment processors and government EBT administrators — the new standard is an interface specification. It enables messages to be exchanged among the parties involved in magnetic stripe card transactions associated with the U.S. Department of Agriculture food stamp system. Specifically, the standard clarifies the technical aspects of the EBT system for both processors and retailers. It is designed to ensure that different systems are compatible by conforming to the standard, thereby eliminating or at least significantly reducing service disruptions.

FMI is encouraging all food retail operators to become familiar with the details of ANSI ASC X9.58-2002. For companies that manage their own internal payment switching operations, FMI strongly recommends that a copy of the new standards document be reviewed by their respective operations centers personnel.

A copy of the document may be obtained through the ANSI Web site (http://webstore.ansi.org/ansidocstore/dept.asp?dept_id=80) for $40.00.