History of Nutrition
In 1908, the first Canadian milk pasteurization plant was established to combat the spread of disease through contaminated milk. The staff at SickKids installed the plant 30 years before pasteurization became mandatory across the Dominion. As part of the distribution process, parents were given rounded milk bottles with bottoms designed to prevent them from standing. This ensured that the bottles would be returned to the plant for cleaning and reuse.
Pablum was first developed in the early 1930s by Drs. Alan Brown, Theodore Drake, and Frederick Tisdall* at SickKids. The team had developed the Sun Wheat Biscuit and wanted to create a similar, nutrient-rich food for infants. Pablum was made from a mixture of wheat, oat and corn flours, and was fortified with essential vitamins and minerals, including iron. The cereal was designed to be mixed with breast milk or formula to create a smooth and easy-to-digest food for infants. The name Pablum comes from the Latin word pabulum, meaning "food." Pablum quickly became popular and was distributed throughout Canada and the United States. It is still used today as a staple food for infants and young children. Revenues from Pablum helped to support the development of research at SickKids and ultimately the Research Institute. These same revenues also supported numerous studies across Canada.
Sprinkles is a micronutrient powder developed by Dr. Stanley Zlotkin at SickKids to combat malnutrition in developing countries. The powder contains a blend of essential vitamins and minerals, including iron, zinc and vitamin A, that can be added to any semi-solid food, such as porridge or yogurt, to increase its nutritional value. Sprinkles was first piloted in Haiti in 2002 and has since been distributed to millions of children worldwide, helping to address malnutrition and its associated health consequences. SickKids continues to work on improving the nutritional status of children globally, with Sprinkles being just one of the many innovative solutions developed by its researchers and clinicians.
In the 1930s, SickKids developed Sun Wheat Biscuits to address the problem of childhood malnutrition during the Great Depression, a project led by Drs. Frederick Tisdall* and Theodore Drake. The biscuits were made from whole wheat flour, fortified with vitamin D, and formulated to provide essential vitamins and minerals. The biscuits were distributed to schools and social agencies across Toronto. The popularity of Sun Wheat Biscuits led to commercial production by McCormick Manufacturing Company under an agreement with SickKids.
* SickKids acknowledges harmful aspects of the hospital's history with Indigenous people. Between 1942 and 1952, on behalf of the Department of Indian Affairs of Canada, Dr. Frederick Tisdall and his team conducted nutritional experiments on malnourished populations in some Indigenous communities and residential schools.
During these experiments essential vitamins were withheld from children who needed them, and regular physical examinations may have been confusing, painful, and potentially traumatic. The experiments were conducted without children or their parents’ consent, and by modern standards of medical research ethics would not have been approved. Findings of the studies did little to alleviate the underlying causes of malnutrition for Indigenous children, and for most, the health risks experienced over the course of the studies outweighed any benefits received.
We are committed to acknowledging and addressing the legacy of this research. To learn more, please visit the Indigenous Health Strategy to view SickKids' reconciliation statement and strategy priorities.