WASHINGTON, DC — February 11, 2003 — Seeking to enhance the delivery of benefits to consumers from the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Accredited Standards Committee (ASC) X9 has developed a new national technical standard — ANSI ASC X9.93-2002.

Established by the X9A11 Working Group — which includes retailers, payment processors and government EBT administrators — the new standard enables messages to be exchanged among the parties involved in traditional magnetic stripe and smart card transaction platforms associated with the USDA WIC system. These new platforms also provide a migration path for traditional food stamp and other EBT transactions. Approximately 10 states are experimenting with the standard in some form, with more expected to follow in the coming year.

Creation of the standard, which enables WIC program participants to obtain their benefits via a smart card platform or magnetic stripe card, was led by the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) and its food retail and wholesale company members. FMI also led the recent drive to establish the ANSI ASC X9.58 standard for traditional food stamp EBT transactions, approved in 2002.

“FMI, ANSI and food retail companies nationwide have been working closely with government administrators of WIC programs to move forward with the establishment of a national technical standard for the distribution of WIC benefits,” stated Ted Mason, chair of the X9A11-EBT committee. “We are excited to announce the development of a new standard that will thoroughly enhance benefits delivery through convenient and efficient smart card or magnetic stripe card platforms.”

FMI is encouraging all food retail operators to become familiar with the details of ANSI ASC X9.93-2002 and its applications. For companies that manage their own internal payment switching operations, FMI 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 at www.ansi.org.

Introduced in 1972, WIC is a supplemental nutrition program designed to assist women and infants and children under five years old who are at risk of nutritional deficiency. It is administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), but interpreted and implemented by each state.