Pica is the persistent, compulsive ingestion of food or nonfood substances. It is a worldwide problem that has no barriers of age, race, sex or geographic region. Its high prevalence in the United States is largely unrecognized. Causes and risk factors for pica are not well established, although mineral deficiencies and culturally ingrained food preferences play a role. For diagnosis, pica must be suspected and sought. Physicians must be aware that pica can be cured and that prevention can be lifesaving.