The Lead, NYTimes Blog: By Mike Nizza

The Food and Drug Administration today lifted its warning on raw tomatoes, eliminating one culprit from an ongoing salmonella outbreak that remains as unexplained as ever.

Dr. David Acheson, the agency’s associate commissioner for foods, explained the move to the media, including Bloomberg News:

“This is not saying that anybody was absolved,” Acheson said. “What we’re saying right now is informing consumers that tomatoes that are currently in stores and coming on to the market — domestic and imported — are O.K.”

It’s been more than three months since the agency detected a problem, and a week since it added jalapenos, serrano peppers and cilantro to the list of possibilities. The agency is advising anyone with weak immune systems to stay away from both peppers.

The agency has confirmed salmonella illnesses in 1,220 people in 42 states, though the rate has been slowing recently, The Associated Press said. While the last case was traced to July 4, it takes two weeks or more for investigators to check out claims and decide whether the outbreak has indeed ended.

Tomato growers, who are eager to get back to business after absorbing a large chunk of an estimated $100 million in losses tied to the outbreak, have been pushing the F.D.A. to clear the entire crop in Florida. Today, they welcomed the announced, The A.P. said:

“We have long been confident that Florida’s tomatoes were not associated with the salmonella Saintpaul outbreak,” said the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange, whose farmers are deciding whether to start planting for a fall tomato harvest. “Tomatoes from Florida’s growing regions have been gone from the marketplace for weeks, so they could not have been the source of the contamination.”

The longer the Salmonella investigation drags on without explanation — and officials have been utterly frank about the possibility that none will be found — the more cranky the critics are going to be.

Sure enough, FedBlog spotted an example from Food & Water Watch, an environmental group who fired off this news release today: FDA Spends Too Much on Employee Parties, Not Enough on Food Safety.