Modern Asian wet markets are housed in buildings, though there are still numerous street-level wet markets throughout Asia.
A wet market is a market selling fresh meat, fish, produce, and other perishable goods as distinguished from "dry markets" which sell durable goods such as fabric and electronics. Wet markets are common throughout the world.
The Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market was shut down on 1 January 2020. The Chinese government subsequently permanently banned the sale of wild animal products at wet markets the following month.
In Hong Kong
In 1920, the Reclamation Street Market was opened in Hong Kong. Due to structure problems, Reclamation Street Market was removed by the government in 1953. In 1957, Yau Ma Tei Street Market launched to replace the Reclamation Street Market. There were fixed-pitch stalls which sold vegetables, fruits, seafood, beef, pork, and poultry. Also, there were stalls selling baby chickens, baby ducks, and three-striped box turtles as pets.
Central Market was launched on 16 May 1842. Its position was central, on Queen's Road. In this market, people could find all kinds of meat, fruit and vegetables, poultry, salt fish, fresh fish, weighing rooms and money changers.
In Hong Kong, wet markets are most frequented by older residents, those with lower incomes, and domestic helpers who serve approximately 10 percent of Hong Kong's residents. Wet markets have become destinations for tourists to "see the real Hong Kong". Many of the wet market buildings are owned by property investment firms and as a result the price of food can vary from market to market.
In 1994, wet markets accounted for 70% of produce sales and 50% of meat sales in Hong Kong.
In 2008 the government of Hong Kong proposed that all poultry should be slaughtered at central abattoirs to combat the spread of avian flu.
Hong Kong's wet markets use red lampshades to make the food look fresher.
Some traditional Mexican open-air markets called tianguis, such as the Mercado Margarita Maza de Juárez in Oaxaca, are separated into a wet market (zona húmeda) and a dry market (zona seca).
In the early 1990s, the slaughter of animals was banned in 12 inner-city markets and 22 wet market centers in Singapore.
Wet markets are the dominant preferred venue for grocery shopping in Thailand due to the local importance of fresh food.
Hygiene of wildlife markets
If sanitation standards are not maintained, wet markets containing wildlife products can spread diseases. Because of the openness, newly introduced animals may come in direct contact with sales clerks, butchers, and customers. Insects such as flies have relatively easy access to the food products. Carcasses are sometimes thrown on the floor to be butchered. The avian flu and SARS outbreaks can be traced to keeping live animals in wet markets where the potential for zoonotic transmission is greatly increased.
Wet markets where animals are traded in unsanitary conditions combined with the ability of viruses to undergo fast recombination were pointed out as a "time-bomb" as early as in 2007.
Large numbers and varieties of these wild game mammals in overcrowded cages and the lack of biosecurity measures in wet markets allowed the jumping of this novel virus from animals to human. (...) Coronaviruses are well known to undergo genetic recombination, which may lead to new genotypes and outbreaks. The presence of a large reservoir of SARS-CoV-like viruses in horseshoe bats, together with the culture of eating exotic mammals in southern China, is a time bomb.
— VC Cheng, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus as an Agent of Emerging and Reemerging Infection
^Spinney, Laura (28 March 2020). "Is factory farming to blame for coronavirus?". The Observer. ISSN0029-7712. Retrieved 30 March 2020. Most of the attention so far has been focused on the interface between humans and the intermediate host, with fingers of blame being pointed at Chinese wet markets and eating habits,...