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Thursday
Jun132019

Dominican Republic working 'to reinforce' food and beverage standards in wake of tourist deaths

ufuka/iStock(SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic) -- Dominican officials are working to reinforce the island’s food and beverage safety standards amid a rash of mysterious deaths involving American tourists at luxury resorts.

The Dominican Republic Ministry of Tourism issued a statement on Wednesday urging potential visitors to put the recent incidents in context and highlighting the FBI’s role in the investigations.

“The ministry’s most important responsibilities are to ensure that the highest industry standards are met so that all tourists are safe when visiting,” tourism minister Francisco Javier Garcia said. “You can also be sure that the necessary measures will be taken to make the country even safer for all visitors.”

The country offered its condolences to the families and friends of those affected by the “tragic events that have been reported over the last few weeks in the country,” and said it was working with U.S. authorities to uncover more information.

Garcia also appeared to acknowledge reports that some of the victims had consumed beverages from their hotels before suddenly falling ill. He said the ministry is working with the National Hotel Association “to reinforce safety conditions and quality control in food, beverages and any other element that has a positive impact on the satisfaction of those who visit our county as tourists.”

“While what happened is tragic and regrettable,” García said, “it is important for everyone who wishes to disseminate information about the situation to do it in context and with perspective. It is advisable to wait for the official reports before speculating on the causes of death.”

He did not address any of the victims by name, but he highlighted that more than 30 million tourists have visited the country over the last five years and signaled that the recent cases were isolated incidents.

“All visitors are very important to us,” said García. “We are confident that we can provide a definitive answer as soon as possible.”

At least three Americans died under mysterious circumstances within a five-day span at neighboring resorts on the popular Caribbean island.

A Maryland couple -- Edward Nathaniel Holmes, 63, and Cynthia Ann Day, 49 -- died while vacationing at the Grand Bahia Principe La Romana Resort late last month. Their bodies were found on May 30, just five days after Miranda Schaupp-Werner, 41, of Allentown, Pennsylvania, was found dead at the Luxury Bahia Principe Bouganville hotel. The two resorts share property in San Pedro de Macoris on the island’s southeast coast.

The victims were all described as generally healthy and their families said they did not exhibit signs of illness before arriving on the island.

U.S. State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus said her team was monitoring the ongoing investigations closely. She said Americans' safety abroad was the department's "highest priority."

"I want to really reiterate this — that we do offer our condolences and our sympathy to these families. I can't think of anything more tragic than to lose a family member on vacation," Ortagus said Wednesday. "We're of course working very closely with Dominican authorities, and when we have more information other than that, I'd be happy to share it."

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