Kids the world over should get down on their knees and give thanks to Dr. Frederick Tisdall, former director of the nutritional research laboratories for Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children. Thanks to his introduction of vitamin D supplementation in flour and milk in the 1930’s, children no longer have to choke down daily drams of putrid tasting cod liver oil to get their allotment of the “sunshine vitamin.”
Tisdall along with two other pediatricians, Dr. Alan Brown and Dr. Theodore Drake are more famous, however, as the inventors of pablum, a scientifically designed and nutritious cereal created in the 1930’s to provide for the nutritional needs of infants. Prior to this many small children died of diseases such as rickets – directly related to nutrient deficiencies – and of others such as tuberculosis and diphtheria to which they were more susceptible due to poor nutrition.
An earlier attempt at producing a nutritional alternative food for children resulted in Sunwheat biscuits, nutrient loaded cookies concocted from a combination of alfalfa, wheat meal, oatmeal and corn meal, wheat germ, yeast, bone meal and honey for sweetening. These proved to be best sellers, not only improving the nutritional health of thousands of children but also adding much needed royalties to the coffers of the Hospital for Sick Children. Unfortunately the Sunwheat biscuit could not be ingested by small infants and another supplement was required to fill this gap.
Pablum, which derives its name from the Latin pabulum or food, first became available in Canada in 1931. Pablum was made from alfalfa, yeast, wheat germ, corn, oats, bone meal and yeast and contained massive amounts of vitamins A, B2, B2, D and E. In order to overcome the problem of perishability the product was sprayed onto heated, rotating drums and the dried residue was scraped off to make easily reconstitutable flakes which would form a mushy foodstuff that could easily be consumed by small babies. Evidently, the kids loved it – though the fact that adults found the product so insipid provided a nice synonym for the words tasteless and bland.
More royalties rolled in, allowing the founding of the Hospital for Sick Children Research Foundation. This meant that pablum supported not only the physical health of its diminutive consumers but the fiscal health of an institution specifically designed to care for the little ones.
As such it is another example of a much under-heralded success story in Canada’s continuing medical saga.
“Pablum: Get it while it’s luke warm” CriticalMass
“Pablum 1930″ SickKids
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