Pablum is Healthy Baby Food – Canadian-Made
Childhood malnutrition was a troubling issue for parents and doctors in the early 1900s. Toronto doctors set to work, developing infant food with essential ingredients.
What food contained the magic blend of five vitamins, wheat and wheat germ, oats, alfalfa, corn meal, bone meal, and brewer’s yeast? And when mixed with milk, formed the tasty breakfast for baby? Still a staple in infant diets today, it was Pablum, the flaky cereal that boosted nutrition and filled little growling tummies with comfort.
Illness from malnutrition was a serious problem for infants in the early 1900s in North America. The lack of essential vitamins and minerals caused difficulties, including ricketts – a medical condition that causes softening of bones, particularly in children. Much investigation and experimentation in nutritional science using the hungry stomachs of both animals and babies kept laboratory staff busy. Three doctors at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto came up with a solution: an easy-to-eat cereal that contained the necessary elements in one food. Dr. Frederick Tisdall, Dr. Alan Brown and Dr. Theodore Drake named the infant specialty Pablum, meaning “food” in Latin.
Pablum an Instant Nutritious Meal
Combining the healthy ingredients together, the doctors found that the cereal required a long cooking time. This was not a handy method for mothers with hungry babies waiting impatiently for food. Using the same method for producing dried milk powder, the cooked cereal “was dripped on a red-hot revolving drum,” according to Sick Kids Hospital, and quickly scraped off. “The mixture came off the drum as a bone-dry, flaky powder.” The cereal was ready – only milk or formula was needed for an instant nutritious meal for baby.
Pablum Raised Research Funds
Pablum was the second baby food created by the three pediatricians. The cereal was formulated after Sunwheat, their first food development. Sunwheat was a biscuit for toddler nutrition that contained nearly all the same ingredients, but was not in a suitable form for the youngest children to eat. Along with good taste, both Pablum and Sunwheat were easily digested and did not cause constipation or diarrhea. Sunwheat was sold by the McCormick’s company, Pablum by Mead Johnson. Pablum was a popular item with parents, continuing to sell well today in a variety of modern flavours. Sale of the baby food produced royalties that were paid to the Toronto Pediatric Foundation’s research department for 25 years, said Mount Allison University.
The Canadian doctors used their in-depth knowledge to make another improvement in nutrition.
Adding Vitamin D in flour for bread, noted Mount Allison University, “eliminated the need for daily doses of cod liver oil for many children.”
Pediatricians of Great Achievement
Dr. Fred Tisdall was the lead physician on the the nutrition project at the Hospital for Sick Children. The enthusiastic, imaginative doctor was born in 1893. He joined the Hospital in 1921 and became Director of the Nutritional Research Laboratories in 1929. The author of two textbooks on Pediatrics, he also wrote numerous articles on the subject and was a member on several significant health-care boards. Dr. Tisdall died unexpectedly at age 56.
Born in Webbwood, Ontario in 1891, Dr. Theodore Drake graduated from the University of Toronto in 1914. (Known as community area, Webbwood was in northern Ontario, close to Elliot Lake.) He was a Medical Officer with the Canadian military during World War I, where he developed nutritious diets for military personnel and POWs. Drake joined the Toronto General Hospital after the war, becoming Head of the Research Institute. His work was recognized when he was bestowed membership in the Order of the British Empire. Dr. Drake died in 1959.
Graduating in 1909 from the University of Toronto School of Medicine, Dr. Alan Brown was born in Clinton, Ontario in 1887. (His mother was one of the first two female students to attend that same medical school, said International Pediatrics, Vol. 15/No. 3, 2000 article (The Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto). Completing internships at hospitals around the world, he accepted employment at the Hospital for Sick Kids. Dr. Brown became known as a pioneer in pediatrics, having reduced the infant mortality rate by nearly half in only a year’s time. He died in 1960.
All three doctors spent their careers improving health and extending the lives of children in Canada and internationally. The creation of Pablum was one great achievement among many for the dedicated men.
This article first appeared on Suite101.com in 2009. (C) Susanna McLeod