Toronto Public Health has shut down a popular Chinese restaurant in Agincourt after an outbreak of salmonella that might be linked to the eatery.

The agency is also investigating whether a man's death might be linked to the restaurant, but investigators stress it is too soon to make a definitive link. 

"When people come down with an infectious disease ... it's always a serious issue, and that's why we're here -- trying to prevent this type of thing. Or if it's happened, to put an end to it," said Dr. Howard Shapiro, Toronto Public Health's associate director.

Inspectors closed Ruby Chinese Restaurant on Wednesday, leaving some dim-sum-seekers stranded on Thursday. Crucial infractions included:

  • Operator fail to ensure food is not contaminated/adulterated
  • Operator fail to prevent an insect infestation

The restaurant is on Sandhurst Circle near Woodside Square mall at McCowan Road and Finch Avenue East. It had a sign up saying "closed for renovations" -- not far a red Toronto Health "closed" sign that was also stuck to the window.

Inspectors went to check after 19 people who ate there tested positive for salmonella. Toronto Public Health is still waiting for lab test results on 18 more possible cases.

One elderly man who died ate in the restaurant during the affected time frame, but officials are still waiting for tests to confirm whether he did in fact have salmonella poisoning.

Those affected ate there between September 12 and September 20.

Inspectors had been called in on September 29 after complaints but found everything up to code. When they returned Wednesday, they found infractions and shut the place down.

Gloved workers could be seen Thursday tossing out waste and scrubbing equipment out back.

The City of Toronto's online restaurant inspection database shows that the restaurant had passed inspections without conditions eight times before.

The last random inspection was on August 24.

Toronto Public Health spokesperson Rishma Govani said conditions in a restaurant can change radically day by day depending on the day's staffing and food deliveries.

"Its not unheard of that one day you can pass an inspection and next day you don't," she said.

She said restaurants in Toronto receive both scheduled and random inspections about every four months.

About salmonella

Toronto Health provided the following background on salmonella:

  • the infection is caused by salmonella bacteria
  • symptoms normally develop 12 to 72 hours after exposure
  • symptoms can include stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and fever
  •  people with compromised immune systems can die from the infection
  • infants, pregnant women and the elderly are also at greater risk of serious illness
  • in most cases, people are sick for three to seven days and recover without treatment

In a report released earlier this year, Toronto Public Health found that about one in six Toronto residents get a foodborne illness in a given year, meaning about 400,000 cases annually. Most of those cases occur in the home.

With a report from CTV Toronto's Dana Levenson