Pablum is a processed cereal for infants originally marketed and co-created by the Mead Johnson Company in 1931. The product was developed at The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, Ontario, to combat infant malnutrition.
The trademarked name is a contracted form of the Latin word pabulum, which means "foodstuff". The word "pablum" had long been used in botany and medicine to refer to nutrition or substances of which the nutritive elements are passively absorbed. In a broader sense, "pablum" can refer to something that is simplistic, bland, mushy, unappetizing, or infantile.
The Pablum brand was sold to Heinz Company in 2005. As of March 2012, Pablum is still sold.
Pablum Mixed Cereal was made from a mixture of ground and precooked wheat (farina), oatmeal, yellow corn meal, bone meal, dried brewer's yeast, and powdered alfalfa leaf, fortified with reduced iron - providing an assortment of minerals and vitamins A, B1, B2, D, and E. Pablum is palatable and easily digested without causing side effects like diarrhea or constipation. It does not contain common allergens such as chicken eggs, lactose or nuts of any kind, while it does contain wheat and corn, which can be allergenic for some individuals.
Pablum was developed by Canadian pediatricians Frederick Tisdall, Theodore Drake, and Alan Brown, in collaboration with nutrition laboratory technician Ruth Herbert (all of the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto), along with Mead Johnson chemist Harry H. Engel. At the time, breast-feeding had declined in the middle and upper classes, with the effect that the diets of babies were often deficient in essential elements. The cereal marked a breakthrough in nutritional science: it helped prevent rickets, a crippling childhood disease, by ensuring that children had sufficient vitamin D in their diet. Fluoride was not discovered until 1939 by H.T. Dean, but Pablum probably prevented a few cavities, too. From the bone meal, it had about 12 ppm F, which works out to about what pediatricians were prescribing about four decades later.
Although neither Pablum nor its biscuit predecessor was the first food designed and sold specifically for babies, it was the first baby food to come precooked and thoroughly dried. The ease of preparation made Pablum successful in an era when infant malnutrition was still a major problem in industrialized countries.
For a period of 25 years, the Hospital for Sick Children and the Toronto Pediatric Foundation received a royalty on every package of Pablum sold. In 2005, the Pablum brand was acquired by the H. J. Heinz Company.