Can You Use a Pharmaceutical Freeze Dryer for Food?

By Kimberly


Many freeze-dryers are on the market, and people might be confused about what kind of freeze-dryer is best suited for their needs. Plenty of options are available if they want a freeze-dryer just for home use. However, people are considering pharmaceutical freeze-dryers to do the job.

Pharmaceutical freeze-dryers can freeze-dry food, similar to how a home freeze-dryer works. Pharmaceutical freeze-dryers have a broader temperature range and guarantee the freeze-drying process to be complete within 24 hours; however, pharmaceutical freeze-dryers are more expensive than home ones.

People typically buy a home freeze-dryer because the pharmaceutical freeze-dryer costs a lot more than the ones for home use. However, if you have the money, you might consider getting one. This article is here to help us figure out if this type of freeze-dryer is a good investment.

Can You Freeze-Dry Food in a Pharmaceutical Freeze-Dryer?

Food can be freeze-dried in any freeze-dryer, whether it’s designated for home, pharmaceutical, commercial, or laboratory use. The designation indicates how finely tuned the machine is, its temperature range, and if other features exist. Some units may also come with insurance.

People may think they serve different purposes because there is more than one type of freeze-dryer. In a way, they do, but they can do the same thing as a home freeze-dryer can. In addition, pharmaceutical freeze-dryers will also freeze-dry food with no problems.

The pharmaceutical freeze-dryer might even get the job done quicker due to reaching a lower temperature much faster than a home freeze-dryer. Most pharmaceutical freeze-dryers are also larger than home freeze-dryers.

Harvest Right, a brand well known for supplying home freeze-dryers, also has a line of pharmaceutical freeze-dryers. In addition, Harvest Right is a brand that focuses on healthy living via the option of freeze-drying food.

They included these types of freeze-dryers in their line to give their customers an option to get a stronger freeze-dryer with greater freezing capabilities.

While a pharmaceutical freeze-dryer can do the job of a home freeze-dryer, it’s best not to let a home machine freeze-dry pharmaceuticals due to the temperature requirement for particular samples.

If you’re doing lab samples, it’s always best to get the proper type of freeze-dryer for your needs.

What’s the Difference Between a Home and a Pharmaceutical Freeze-Dryer?

A pharmaceutical freeze-dryer will cool the product anywhere from -58 F to -157 F, and do it faster than a home unit, making it ideal for lab samples since temperature and time are of the essence. Both home and pharmaceutical freeze-dryer can be used to freeze-dry food products.

In short, a pharmaceutical freeze-dryer can be used for food products, but a home freeze-dryer cannot be used to freeze-dry samples. So, for those who want to freeze-dry food products, consider a home freeze-dryer.

Meanwhile, consider getting the pharmaceutical freeze-dryer if you are dealing with lab samples.

Another difference is the size of the freeze-dryer. Pharmaceutical freeze-dryers tend to be on the larger side. However, even if they come in different sizes, they are still larger than the home freeze-dryer.

Harvest Right brand pharmaceutical freeze-dryers come in different sizes, so if you still opt to buy one, check which size fits your home.

Lastly, a pharmaceutical freeze-dryer is much more expensive than a home freeze-dryer. So, unless we need a freeze-dryer for lab work, it might be more cost-efficient to settle for a home-freeze dryer if we only plan on freeze-drying food.

This article explores which brands make freeze-dryers, including commercial and pharmaceutical options. Or, if you want a brand comparison, check out this article.

The article provides more in-depth discussions regarding the differences between the two freeze-dryers and may help you choose the right one.

Does Freeze-Drying Sterilize Food?

While freeze-drying can eliminate some harmful elements in the food that makes us sick, it does not remove everything altogether, so a freeze-dryer cannot be used to sterilize food. At most, the freeze-dryer slows down microbial activity in the food, stopping the food from going bad while stored.

A lot of food pathogens such as salmonella and norovirus are still present and remain present but are dormant. So, if the food isn’t exposed to moisture or water, it should stay dormant and prevent food from spoiling.

However, if freeze-dried food is not stored correctly, we can still get sick if we eat it.

Parasites in food are another tricky thing to get rid of, and they will probably not all die in a freeze-dryer. Perhaps some will, but heat is the best way to get rid of these bugs.

If you suspect any food has parasites, it might be best to cook it before freeze-drying, especially meat. If you don’t cook it before freeze-drying, cook it to the proper and recommended temperatures after reconstituting.

If you are interested in how to freeze-dry meat, read this article I wrote: How to Freeze-Dry Meat for Safe Long-Term Storage.

Glass vials for vaccine in laboratory. Group of vaccine bottles. Medicine in ampoules.

What Are Some Pharmaceuticals That Commonly Get Freeze-Dried?

Antibiotics are the most common medicine that gets freeze-dried. Many antibiotics are sensitive to heat and other environmental factors. The process allows the medication to stabilize and retain its effectiveness while being stored.

In the pharmaceutical business, several products are delicate and heat-sensitive, so freeze-drying is the ideal way to preserve the products’ chemical and physical properties.

Vaccines are also freeze-dried for easier transport and storage. In addition, freeze-drying allows different bands of vaccines to reach almost any part of the world without fearing the medicine going bad.

Blood donations can also be freeze-dried. Freeze-drying removes liquids from the plasma, and they get rehydrated if the blood products or plasma is to be used for transfusion.

So, the next time we decide to donate blood, we at least know our blood will be able to get used without contamination.

Please remember, though, that not every unit or part of donated blood will get freeze-dried. There’s a whole process, and this article barely scratches the surface of the whole medical aspect of freeze-drying.

Is Freezing Pharmaceutical Products an Option?

Freezing pharmaceuticals is an option and is still used to store and transport products. However, it has a large room for error. If professionals cannot maintain a steady temperature, the products risk going bad or will become ineffective.

Freezing is also energy-intensive, so it’s more cost-efficient to spend money on a pharmaceutical freeze-dryer and not worry about the electric bill.

Transportation may also be challenging because the products need to be kept in a cool place while in transport.

It’s usually being unable to maintain a cool temperature during transport that causes most products to become unusable. Several products, such as vaccines, go through these problems.

Key Takeaways and Next Steps

It’s nice to know we can use a pharmaceutical freeze-dryer for food, but with the knowledge that it’s quite a bit more expensive than a home freeze-dryer, it might not be an option. It’s also good to remember that a home freeze-dryer will not work well for lab products.

However, if we’re using a freeze-dryer for lab work, it would be great to have a pharmaceutical freeze-dryer. We could use it for both labs and food.

Keeping in mind that freeze-drying won’t remove parasites and harmful bacteria, here are some other articles I wrote that are related to this subject, along with basic freeze-dryer pros and cons:

They’re all great articles that cover freeze-drying from the at-home angle to answer your questions – so go ahead and read whichever one floats your fancy. Or read them all! I’m here and just happy to help.


Learning from your own experience is essential, but learning from others is also intelligent. These are the sources used in this article and our research to be more informed as homesteaders.

  • Arantes, Alex. “3 Facts About Freeze-Drying in Pharmaceutical Manufacturing.” Oxford College, 31 Mar. 2020,
  • “Does Freeze-Drying Foods Kill It? (Bacteria, Virus, Nutrients, Enzymes).” Backyard Homestead HQ, 9 July 2022,
  • “Harvest Right.” Harvest Right, Accessed 13 July 2022.
  • International Labmate. “How Is Freeze Drying Used in Pharmaceuticals?” Labmate Online, Accessed 13 July 2022.
  • Labconco. “What’s the Difference between a Home Freeze Dryer and a Lab Freeze Dryer?” Labconco, Accessed 13 July 2022.
  • Starr, Kimberly. “Comparing Freeze Dryers Brands: Which Is Best (Harvest Right).” Backyard Homestead HQ, 30 June 2022,

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